And he’s mine, too.
We used to sit in crowded rooms where he would tell stories and speak right to me.
I wrote him letters, and he bought me Forrest Gump on DVD for Christmas.
He moved, I moved.
And then we turned sixteen.
We sat in a mexican restaurant where he told me about the him he’d hidden from me for two years.
So we fought on front porches, screaming “I know” and “I think you are too good for this.”
He told me he didn’t want it to come between us, but he didn’t want to quit yet, and God knows I couldn’t have quit us.
Because we don’t ever know how to let go of the people who have stayed.
Then I remember when it was 11:00 p.m., and we were seventeen.
I remember that the pillow was frumpy, and I breathed in ashes from cigarettes that were scattered all across it; the blanket I had wrapped around my legs was too thin and scratchy, and there was a loud buzzing coming from the eight year old iMac monitor in the corner of the room. His dad was dragging his feet across the creaking floorboards downstairs on the main floor, humming a song from Star Wars.
My mother and his mother walked through the door. Still, I laid in the dark room. Sleep was heavy all around me.
I had woken up hourly to watch the clock since its screen had beamed “10:00” in bright red.
At 1:15, I felt another body in the room.
“What was it like?” I finally asked.
“Dude, it was the coolest thing ever,” he turned to face me, smiling.
My eyes burned. “Well, that’s good, I guess.”
Yes, the pillow was frumpy, and I breathed in the smoke that still clung to his clothes; the blanket wrapped around my legs was too thin and scratchy. I laid in the dark room listening to the loud buzzing of the iMac monitor and the long breaths he took as his mind finally found escape in a world of his own making and mine began to feel more locked behind bars than he had been at 10:00.
That’s when I pulled the boy with blue eyes closer, making it obvious, playing favorites.
Because I didn’t know how to talk to our best friend anymore.
We only spoke when our world got shaken up and exploded like a coke bottle or when we got to eat cake and be celebrated for being alive.
I was angry.
His eyes were red and always hard to see, hiding behind swollen lids.
Then his nose always itched. He spent days in bed because of all the things he’d filled himself up with.
He was trapped, and I was bitter.
And let me tell you something about being bitter: it will try to dress up like love does and blind you.
Except there won’t be butterflies or blushing. You won’t be able to see what’s right in front of you, but nothing will look hopeful.
It was March 7, 2015. I am nineteen, and he is twenty.
We hadn’t seen each other in a month and a half.
I walked through the front door of his house to bring his family dinner in the midst of their loss without any intention of popping my head into his studio to see him. His brother had to coax me into going to check on him, saying, “You know if I’m worried, it must be bad.”
So I walked down the creaky stairs on my tiptoes towards the basement.
I stop when I passed the pink electric guitar hanging on the wall. I was there the day he got it, the first of his own; he played “Happy Birthday” on it for me when I turned fifteen.
He smiled big when he saw me. His hair was dirty, and he hadn’t eaten or slept in three days.
For a while, he played me his new songs. I told him how much I loved them, how brilliant he is, and he sat a little higher in his seat.
The next thing we knew, we were sitting in his living room eating his brother’s M&Ms that we stole from wherever they were hiding in the house. We were laughing, and then I was asking him if he’s okay, and he’d told me about what it felt like to be the one to find his grandmother after the massive stroke she had while his mother is having to decide between whether she lives out the rest of her days on machines in pain or not.
And my heart shrinks back to the place where my backbone should be. Because I didn’t have the guts to look at him and not all of the mistakes he has made that robbed him of his potential and me of my best friend.
Instead I’ve spent my time fighting to hold on to a boy with the blue eyes that knows how to sever ties and look away like the past ten years never happened.
I’ve never felt so wrong and small, never so breathless in trying to make things right– to make him feel alright.
How do we learn to forgive people for all the ways that they changed our lives?
To show up when it’s hard? Because we are good at filling the void when we have the words and arms to hug and are with a heart that knows how to love us back well– but what about when filling the void means forgiveness and letting a blindness that comes from love swell up inside you until the pain doesn’t matter anymore and you can just be arms and words and whatever you need to be in spite of the bitterness for the person that left the sour taste in your mouth?
I think that might just be what love looks like.
Not the love that’s burned scars on hearts or led to first kisses.
It’s the big love that forgets all the bad in a single moment and just sits with us when it’s all hard.
God, please teach me how to be wrong over and over and over again until it isn’t something that hurts anymore, until being wrong makes me better.