You would’ve been 36 this year. Would you have been married already? With kids?
It feels impossible to imagine you at this age. Maybe it’s because of that youthful puppy dog spirit of yours. Or maybe because your death froze you in time at 18. It’s hard to say.
Sometimes I wonder if we’d still be friends now. Would we have remained thick as thieves into true adulthood, or would we have drifted apart the same way that I have with most of my college friends at this point?
Would we have had a falling out? Ugh. I actually shudder at the thought of that. I can’t even imagine fighting with you. What would we fight about anyways?
Then again I never fought with my most recent best, not even once. Until we did, and that one fight broke us. Split us right in two without looking back.
Grief is weird. Especially when you’re mourning someone who’s still alive.
In some ways it’s easier when they’re gone, isn’t it? Not that it’s easy that you’re gone. But more like it becomes easier to let go, because you’re not…here.
A woman I follow on Instagram recently lost her best friend to cancer. She wrote about how she could never go back and listen to the podcasts they recorded together before her passing because it would be too painful.
It reminded me of when you died.
And I used to call your phone every hour of the day just to hear your voice on your voicemail. I didn’t have any saved messages from you on my phone. And this was way before the time of voice notes and videos on the phone. I just wanted to hear your voice, even if it was only a few seconds every day.
I swear the day your parents finally cut off of your phone line was almost as bad as the day you died, because it felt like I lost that loving piece of you. Sure, I had photos, but they felt so flat, you know? Like they didn’t really capture your sparkly essence the way your voice did.
Whenever I watch shows about women with best friends, I always think: I’ll never have that.
I thought it was just my relationship style, and my capacity for friendship. Plus, my lifestyle of running around the world all the time didn’t leave a lot of space for all that togetherness.
But then I realized something. I (unknowingly) closed off that piece of my heart that’s reserved for loving the shit out of a best friend after you left. Almost like a widow who never let herself love again, even if she got remarried.
Maybe that’s what happens when your soul mate dies, I don’t know.
I don’t just think of you in October, I think of you all the time. But there’s something about the smell of autumn that makes you ever present in my mind.
Whenever people ask me about you, I always try to find the right words to describe you, but it feels like- for once- words aren’t enough.
Plus, doesn’t everyone always talk about the deceased in some kind of gushing way? Kind of the same way new parents think every single new feat their baby does is miraculous and extra special even though all they literally did was laugh, or smile, or stand up.
I guess it makes sense. There is something miraculous in the simplicity of it all.
Because when I really try to capture your essence with words, the first thing I always say is, “she was just really kind.” And, I guess that’s just about as exciting as a toddler stuttering out their first words, isn’t it?
The thing with kindness is that while it seems like the baseline of the human experience, it’s actually lacking in more often than not. Whether it’s interactions with strangers in grid lock traffic, or your own internal dialogue when you look at yourself in the mirror. There’s just not enough kindness nowadays.
There was this girl in our sorority who was a bit of an outcast.
Yeah yeah, we were all supposed to be “sisters,” and have this unwavering bond of loyalty and love- but the truth is we were picked based on money, looks, and quotas. Not exactly the same bonds that tie a family together.
You were popular right away, because your older brothers were somewhat notorious on campus. Most of your friends were juniors (gasp), and you had this air of coolness about you.
But you weren’t a Regina George. You didn’t abuse your power.
One night we were walking to some frat party in a big long line of bleach blonde girls in jean mini skirts, hot pink shirts, and teased hair. There must’ve been 150 of us, or more.
Within the mass, we’d all sort of clumped up into our own cliques with ease. Except for that one girl. She was taller than most of the others, and had brown hair instead of blonde. There were whispers how she wasn’t even supposed to get a bid, it must’ve been an accident. Some people called her names, or giggled and pointed behind her back.
Shrek. Ogre. Giant.
You and I were walking together our arms hooked like a chain link fence, and probably a buzz of boose running through our systems. We both saw the pointing, we both heard the name calling, and the giggling.
And we both saw the girl’s shoulders slump in recognition of the bullying. It was like she was doing anything she could to take up less space. Maybe then she’d be less of a target.
Without missing a beat, you took two giant strides ahead, and linked your free arm around hers, so she was a part of our chain.
“So, what’s new in your world?” You asked, looking up at her with a smile on your face.
“Ummm…” She stammered, unsure of if she was getting punked by the cool girls.
“Tell me something about you,” you pressed.
She looked at your face, almost in bewilderment, until she saw your eyes and could tell that she was safe. You weren’t like the rest of them.
Your five foot nothing little body served as a shield to her for the rest of the night. As far as I know, none of our “sisters” bullied her again.
We both heard the same names, we both saw the same points, and watched the same giggles. But you’re the one who did something, without making a big deal about it.
My style has always been coming in hot. Bullying the bullies, if you will. And, let’s be real, that’s not the best approach either.
But in that moment, I was quiet. It wasn’t that I was scared to stand up to the mean girls, or that I didn’t feel bad for the one being picked on. Because I did feel bad, and yet also just didn’t really…care.
You reminded me to care more.
You reminded me to be a better person in that moment, and somehow you keep reminding me until now.
See, I told you it’s the little things.
Those are the little micro moments of in-between that really define you, I guess. And, those are the moments etched into my memory when I think of you as the leaves turn, and the autumn air goes crisp.
Happy birthday, JP.
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