I was walking next to him, his muscles were tan and sweaty, the odor of stinky-man sweeping over me. His arm had been around my shoulders as we had talked about his crush, another guy in our class, but then he withdrew it. A hooded silence seemed to fall over him. I probed lightly with questions. What was wrong? These mood swings were normal, and I had come to know them closely. A bit bi-polar, a bit melodramatic, and very diabetic. He resented the diabetes and wouldn’t monitor his blood sugar out of spite which meant that sometimes he would fall against me, like a drunk, laughing and I would have to support him as we went to get him juice, or anything to get up his blood sugar.
“I’ve been having dreams,” he said “Recurring dreams, always the same thing.” “What about?” I asked. “About me dying, always before I turn eighteen. Dying by fire or by water,” he said calmly, “always before I’m eighteen.” Very put off I slipped under his arm again, smiling, “well that’s morbid… You should be more cheerful!” He sighed and said, “What if it’s true?” “I’ll keep you away from fire and water,” I said seriousl. “Besides, eighteen will be so much fun. We can buy lottery tickets!” He gave me a look — one of those, Ohhhh, really? looks — and said, “If I had to get married right now, I would choose you.” I giggled breathing in his man-smell and started talking about something else.
Two weeks later, they found his body on the side of a highway. He had jumped from the tallest highway overpass in town. He hadn’t died of fire or water, he had died of earth; cold, hard concrete which left his face smashed and the license in his pocket the only way to identify him.
My world turned upside down. I went to my best friends wake, I saw his reconstructed body, held his stiff waxy hand, played our favorite song and waited for him to make some sarcastic remark. It never happened. Never again would he tease me, call me Monica Lewinsky, or hug me so hard I couldn’t breath.
I kept myself busy trying to be strong, holding all of my friends who had barely known him as they cried. I never cried; crying would mean it was true, that he was gone. Then one day, I was standing in the kitchen with my mother and it hit me. I sank to the floor shuddering. Never have I felt such a surge of pain, such an inability to do anything.
His death taught me to feel. Made me realize how much I loved him. But it also left me scared — scared that I’d be left again, that someone else I loved would leave this earth. I see it in all my relationships now; a fear of commitment but at the same time, a desire to overcommit. And always the question, the fear in my head: what if they die, and then I’m holding their waxy hand, and then I’m on the kitchen floor again… shuddering.