Once there was a girl. She lived in the middle of the desert and while she was shy and a tad odd she still managed to make a friend or two. She lived on a street that was under developed. There were large desert lots open for her to explore, collect bugs and stalk lizards.
Then one day, her favorite empty lot was sold and construction on a house began. She felt bitterness deep in her heart as she watched that house go up. It was taking the biggest lot, that had the best trees for hiding. It was also the lot where her and her best friend, who had recently moved away, had spent many hours exploring and recreating scenes from Are You Afraid of the Dark? When the house was finished it sat empty for some time. The girl began to hope that a family with a gaggle of cute sons might move in so she could ogle them from afar.
Finally, when the girl was in eighth grade, a moving van pulled into the driveway and a family moved in. As mentioned before the girl was shy, however, she managed to convince one of her equally shy friends that if they went to the house together to greet the new neighbors it wouldn’t be so intimidating. And so the girl and her friend went to the new neighbors house and rang the doorbell.
It seemed the girl’s prayers were answered for an adorable seventh grade boy answered and smiled awkwardly.
That’s how I met one of my closest friends Joshua Tennis. Josh immediately invited us into his house, got us drinks and made us feel at home. When the time came to go home it felt like leaving a friends house, not someone who was essentially a perfect stranger. In fact I’m pretty sure that within an hour he had both of us sitting comfortably on his bed regaling us with stories from his previous schools, his family, basically anything we wanted to know about him.
Josh moved often and sometimes would disappear off my radar for months at a time, but he always reappeared, apologetic and eager to catch up. And even though I wouldn’t see him for months it felt like I was with my friend. He had a way of making one feel important, not just to him, but to others as well. He always managed to fill me with optimism, which was definitely a challenge most times.
Through the miracle of Facebook we had recently reconnected in a very real way. That may sound weird. There are some people on Facebook that I reconnect with in that we chat a bit, or comment on pictures or “Like” things the other has posted. But we haven’t reconnected in that we’ve started hanging out, talking on the phone and having real conversations. That sounds harsh, but it’s the brutal truth of Facebook.
When I reconnected with Josh he had recently moved back to the desert. So we started hanging out again. When I wasn’t in the desert he would call and we’d talk for hours. He would text me regularly and if for some reason he couldn’t he would find a way to let me know he was alright.
Last week Josh randomly popped into my mind and I realized it had been awhile since I’d heard from him, so I shot him a quick text. I didn’t get a reply, so I went on Facebook to do what any devoted friend would do, stalk him. I noticed before I even got to Josh’s page that lots and lots of pictures of him were popping up. One even had a description that read “RIP my friend.”
I panicked. I went to his page and found that my worst fears were confirmed. Josh had been killed in a car accident.
I miss my friend. I miss my friend a lot. And the very strange and perhaps even most painful thing about it is how far removed from it I am. I’ve dealt with a lot of death in my 31 years and they’ve all been deaths that are close to me. Ones that impact my day to day routines. But this one is tricky. No one here knew Josh, so while the folks here are sympathetic and kind, I feel I can’t do my grieving properly. I’m sure no one would blame me if I broke down weeping (which I won’t do because crying in public…you’ll never see me do that) but I can’t. I feel weird and I hate it.
It felt different when I went to the desert for the service. As soon as we were in Palm Springs, I felt worse. I hated that I wasn’t going to get to see him, hang out with him, poke fun at his electronic cigarettes. I hated the reason for my visit. I didn’t want to go, but I knew I would regret it forever if I didn’t. I also knew I needed to say goodbye and if I didn’t go to the service, how could I ever let him go?
Leaving was terrible as well. The service didn’t make his absence real for me, what was real was the fact that I had visited the desert and not seen him. We didn’t get together for drinks. I didn’t drag him to a scary movie. He didn’t come pick me up with Teddy squirming in the backseat. We didn’t lay on his bed talking about love, relationships and memories from middle school. I didn’t make him roll his eyes with the orange juice story that never fails to make me laugh til I cry. Leaving made him being gone real for me and instead of feeling better I just felt worse.
I miss my fucking friend. I just wonder how much more of this I can take before I turn to stone.