I’m standing in the kitchen chopping tomatoes when I think of you.
I’m walking down the street when I think of you.
I’m thinking about home when I think of you.
The thoughts come suddenly and unbidden. A flash of memory will pass through my mind and the world stops spinning. In my mind, you are there. You are alive and you are laughing.
“That’s a fiction now,” I tell myself.
You’re gone, but that’s so big that my mind can’t wrap around it. Time has passed and I’m still floored when I remember. I’ve lived far away for so long, but I can bring to mind the image of my home so easily. The familiar sense of pride in the people I’m fortunate enough to call friends, the swell of happiness upon seeing everyone together. And you are there. Always, you are there.
I have to remind myself that isn’t true anymore.
We didn’t share years of childhood memories. We would go months without talking, catching up when we saw each other but rarely in touch in the interim. But you were part of the mosaic of my life for the past seven years. A constant friendly face, a warm greeting and a sincere hug and a round of drinks. Each time I came home I knew I would see you. It didn’t need to be planned or thought out. You’d be there, and we would laugh.
Standing in the kitchen or on the street I remember when you saved me from myself on my 21st birthday, when I accidently invited most of the bar back to my house for an after party. Did I ever tell you that I waited for you to come back that night? We danced at friends’ weddings, and on a beer soaked dance floor at the local bar where we very earnestly danced very poorly. We texted while I sat in the airport in London and I felt a little closer to home.
I felt closer to home again in the days after the accident. The outpourings of love and grief via social media were cathartic. It was the closest thing to communal grieving I had, for on the day of the funeral I could only send my love to the place where all our memories are set.
There’s a weight in my chest that I suspect is always there, but I only notice when I think of you. My breath becomes shallow and each pound of my heart is amplified in my ears. In a way, the discomfort is soothing. It’s my body telling me this is real. It’s all real. You were my friend, and now you are gone. I hope my body never adjusts to that reality. I hope I am always uncomfortable in a world without you.
I have made a mantra of the words that first passed through my head after I heard the awful news. There’s more that I could dream of saying to you. Things about kindness and compassion and joy, all words that describe you and my memories of you perfectly. In life you were selfless, and you deserved so much better than what you got that day. But I can’t go back and shower you in the love and gratitude and warmth you inspired in the people who cared about you. All I can do is repeat those words.
First, a deep breath. Then:
“I hope it was fast. I hope you felt no pain. I hope you were not afraid.”
My meager hopes sent into the still-recent past, the world begins to spin again. My thoughts drift to other things, other responsibilities, other moments in time. All the little details of my life become real again and I’m swept up in their current. But someday soon, I’ll think of you again, and I’ll remember, and I’ll mourn the days past and the days you never saw. It’s the least I can do for a dear friend.
About the Author
Bridey Heing is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. Her interests include travel, international politics, film, and tattoos. More of her work can be seen here.