Hi. I'm AR2. One of my best friends died January 14, 2013.
Steve and I met in second grade, shortly after I was promoted out of first. We were both too bright for our own good. I learned his birthday (same as Annie Sullivan's, the day Titanic sank), his middle name, sibling status, pet person preferring cats to dogs (but ok with both), the sound of his voice, and all the other stuff I had to know of my friends. He didn't care that I was both younger and a girl. I went to his birthday party. We learned the same stuff (I was a better speller, he memorized times tables faster than I did), read some of the same books, watched the Muppets, shared frustrations and fart jokes.
He was my first kindred spirit.
We got older, things got a bit more awkward. My folks divorced and I moved to another small town. I ran into him at the library. He said hi. I think I must have changed a little bit. Enough for him to tell me he debated whether or not to approach me. "I may end up feeling really stupid, but I'm sure that's [AR2]!" We caught up some. It stuck out in my memory as one of the few good things in a really sucky year.
I moved back to my old school as a senior, after moving in with my dad. Steve drove another friend and me on a speech club trip to an amusement park. I found out he listened to Dr. Demento as faithfully as I did, which just seemed right somehow. He asked me why I moved back, and I told him, "My mom threw me out." He said he was sorry. SO not the response I expected. Most people seemed to want to know what I'd done to deserve it. I kept my composure and answered it was her loss, and she'd know it when she was in a nursing home with no one visiting her. I didn't cry. That came later.
We ended up at the same community college. We'd say hi in passing, or run into each other (at the library, naturally). We weren't close but I knew we were still friends. Someday at some far off class reunion, I'd reconnect with him. Meet his wife, see pictures of his kids, all that nifty crap. I didn't think about it much beyond that.
That changed at my first week at a new job last year, when I read his obituary (incomplete) in a newspaper in the break room. No birth date given, but the right age, and the middle initial matched up with his middle name. Where he died, but no cause of death (and I'm afraid to ask, what if he committed suicide?) Who was handling the funeral arrangements, but not when or where they would be--and I couldn't remember if his family went to church or not.
No seeing him again, ever. Never hearing him speak again. No catching up at any high school reunion.
How the Hell can I miss someone I hadn't seen in over twenty years this much?
I want to wrap this up into a tidy little narrative, like a birthday present for him (which is what I wanted this to be). But it's already running long, so I'll save tidy for another night.
Happy birthday, Steve. I hope you knew how much I love you.
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