I can’t believe it’s been 14 years since you left us. I know we weren’t close at the end, and hadn’t even seen each other for years, but I always thought there would be a time when we would reconnect… it was inevitable. And I would get to say all the things I never said, and ask you all the questions I never had the words before to ask. But you were gone too soon.
Your leaving left even more questions than I ever expected. I always wondered what it was like, living in your head. You had so much knowledge, you were so funny, so quick, and you cared. Maybe you cared too much.
You were gone before I put the pieces together and figured out where those flowers came from that appeared on my porch every so often when we were little. I think I remember a time when my teacher sent me to your classroom for something, and you saw me and jumped up, and asked if I was okay. I didn’t understand why at the time, and now I wonder if it ever really happened, or if it was just a dream.
You taught me about fishing and climbing trees and ghost runners in kickball. I remember picking peas and fording streams and sledding by your house and building snowmen. You were my first friend who was a boy, and it was completely okay that I was a girl and didn’t know anything, because you were willing to teach me.
Sometimes I wonder…what if I had gotten up the courage to just talk to you during one of those rare times we were both home at the same time near the end. If I had just knocked on your mom’s door like I did when we were little and said, “Can Mike come out and play today?” Would it have made a difference?
My biggest regret is not doing that. Whether or not it would have made a difference is beside the point. I wish I had just swallowed my insecurities and embarrassment and awkwardness and knocked on your door. I never let you know how I eagerly listened for morsels of news of you and your new life across the country. I wondered if the rumors I heard of you were true. I wondered if you were happy there. I wondered if you found someone else to give flowers to. And I could have known if I had just crossed our yards and asked.
Since you died, I have seen you in my dreams, and I like to think that was your way of checking on me and saying goodbye. I used to dread those dreams that came every April, because I would wake up crying and filled with regret. Now that they seem to have stopped, I miss them. Even if it wasn’t you visiting me, it felt like it was, and I miss seeing your face in the middle of whatever nonsense my brain creates at night. It’s like losing you again.
I have tried very hard not to be angry with you for deciding to go. I don’t want to blame you for not walking over to my door and doing what I was too scared to do and just say hi. I want to be able to smile, and jokingly say to you, “Dying was really the worst April Fool’s joke EVER. You know that, right?” I wish I could.
I hope that you have found some peace wherever you are. I think I understand maybe a part of what you were feeling, and I hope that all of the pain is gone, now. I still miss you sometimes, but it’s mostly only on this day, it seems. Like everyone else who loved you, I will always wish you were here, but I have learned to accept that you’re not. I’ve thought of saying goodbye to you, but I don’t want to. You were the first boy to give me flowers, and the first boy to bait my hook for me, and the beautifully smart boy who always blew me away. So, I hope it’s okay with you if I don’t say goodbye, but instead hope that we’ll meet again someday.
Your Girl Next Door