He had reddish brown hair, freckles, the biggest smile, and an even bigger temper. We'd been friends since he'd first arrived in my 6th grade classroom. We played wall ball every day at recess with a fierce kind of friendly competition. We ran through forests, chased by imaginary evils. We rode bikes along the river. We went to Outdoor School and learned about plants and stared up at the stars. We went to Dairy Queen after the spring Sock Hop. We had the exact same alarm clock. We went to our first junior high dance and held each other awkwardly as Phil Collins sang a song about a groovy kind of love. We talked about politics during lunch and I dreamed of the day he would run for president and I could be his first lady.
And then he was gone.
And no one understood how many pieces my 13 year old heart had broken into.
There is such a haunting loneliness that comes from experiencing any great heartache or great joy when you don't have someone to share it with, someone who genuinely gets it. At first I tried to talk to my dad, to friends, but they quickly moved on, not exactly understanding how deep the wound was. So rather than getting the stitches I needed, I got a band-aid instead. It was better than nothing, but it was not nearly enough.
Slowly though, the wound began to heal and the sharp and stinging pain subsided into a dull sort of ache until all that was left was a long scar, the reminder that something, that someone I loved, my very first true love, had been taken away from me.
It was hidden, buried under clothes, concealed from plain view, but I looked at it often, inviting the sadness to linger, refusing to forget.
I was afraid to get close to people and afraid to let people get close to me. I had friends who knew me, but didn't know me. I perfected the skills of dodging questions and ambiguous responses. I mastered the fine art of keeping my distance.
And every May 8th, I remembered everything.
When I was 17, on the anniversary of his death, I wrote Adam a letter in my journal. "Four years have come and gone since your life was taken away. I miss you. Sometimes I wonder what things would have been like if you had never died. Would I still think about you, remember you?"
Within a year of Adam's death I'd moved away. My father had remarried for the third time and even if Adam had still been alive, we wouldn't have gone to the same high school. It was likely we would have drifted apart from distance if for no other reason.
I knew in my head that it was time for me to give up his ghost. Next I had to convince my heart.
It didn't happen right away. It took a few persistent friends and falling in love before I was finally able to say goodbye. And even now, twenty some years later, there isn't a May 8th when I don't look up at the sky and whisper, "I still miss you Adam."
|Adam's 6th Grade School Picture|
March 21st, 2013 was the release day for Nova Ren Suma's amazing book 17 & Gone. I had the good fortune of reading a review copy last fall and it has haunted me since. This past week, to celebrate the book's birthday, Nova Ren Suma has been posting various YA writers talking about what haunted them when they were 17 and there have been some amazing posts. So far my favorites have been Nina La Cour's and Libba Bray's. Nova has invited others to write about what they were haunted by. This is what I wrote.