It was January and I had just gotten off my plane coming home from Christmas break. I was waiting to get off the plane and was scrolling through Instagram to see what I had missed during my seven hour flight. As I scrolled I came across a picture of you and one of our mutual friends. I remember thinking how nice it was to see your smile again, and I remarked to myself how much I thought you look like that famous actor Ansel Elgort.
That made me think about how I hadn't talked to you in a while and I was about to send you a message telling you how much I thought you look like Mr. Elgort and to ask you how you've been and how life was going. Before I went to send you the message I had already planned out in my head, I thought I should at least read our mutual friends caption of the picture first, he has a tendency to be pretty funny. That was when my stomach dropped. It wasn't the happy-go-lucky post that I thought it was. It said RIP, and time stopped.
You and I were not the closest friends, in fact, most people probably would've just called us acquaintances, but you were my friend and I loved you as such. It's been six months since you've been gone and I'm crying even now as I write this.
For the better part of two years we worked on nearly every English and/or Humanities project together. Whenever our teacher said it was a group project or paper, we had our signal across the room that we both knew meant we were in it as a team.
Most people knew how good of a basketball player you were and baseball player. Most people knew you as the guy who was always making people smile with his smile, and the go-getter in any sport. I had the honor and privilege to know you in a different way. Through those many projects and papers we worked on together I saw the incredibly gifted, intelligent, and creative human being that surpassed any talent I had.
What broke my heart was that when we'd share our projects they'd give me credit for your talent, because I was the academic know-it-all, wasn't I? I'd always try to tell them it was you, but they just thought I was feigning humility. But I saw you, I saw all your potential, and I saw all the amazing things you could do and I was in awe. Genuinely I was, and I looked up to you.
My senior year was hard. We had humanities together that year. You, Joe, and I sat in the back corner and often got in trouble for talking, especially during "Hamlet" and "Brave New World". My life at that time was in shambles and I had considered taking my life many times.
One of the things I held onto to get me through that time was our fifth period Humanities class. The idea of you and Joe being there every single day, making me laugh, and making me feel at home and safe in the room our beloved English teacher called "the Safe Haven" kept me going. That day I came into class, completely defeated, and you saw it, and you asked me if I needed a hug and all I could do was nod my head and you just gave me the best hug I could've asked for.
I knew you were depressed, too. I saw it. When you weren't making jokes and everybody asked what was wrong and you told them you were just tired I knew you were lying. I knew because you told me, that day that everyone was hating on you because your dad hadn't called in a snow-day for the school. I remember sitting with you and talking about it, and me telling you it wasn't your fault and that I was sorry that other people were unkind.
Our class ended, I graduated, and I didn't keep in touch. You had a new girlfriend, a good group of friends, and you seemed like you were getting happy. A year and a half later, and I'm reading our friends farewell message to you. I didn't have words, I just felt shock and pain in my chest as the mourning came upon me before I even knew what was happening. I had a six hour layover until my next flight and I sat in that airport for six hours and I sobbed, just like I'm doing now. The shock and pain hasn't lessened over time and neither has the regret that I didn't message you sooner.
I remember, after your death, reading everyone's farewell messages to you, and crying as my mourning joined with theirs. I remember feeling like I couldn't imagine that if this is the way I feel, how the people who were the closest to you must have felt, and I felt like I didn't deserve to say a farewell to you because I wasn't one of the ones that loved you best. I wanted to leave you and your memory to your loved ones. But after six months went by and none of the pain subsided, I realized I needed to say some things to you too. Things that I never said out loud, or at least said too rarely.
B, you were the best of us. That's not something I say after a tragic event, but after having known you and a vast majority of people, you were the best of us. In my memory, you are kind, you are compassionate, you are so gifted, so smart, so understanding, and so funny. You were everything I wanted to be.
But most of all, I want you to know that I loved you as my friend for who you were. Reading "Water For Elephants", "A Brave New World", and "Hamlet" will never be the same because of all the insights you shared and all of the jokes we made, neither will writing short stories, which we always got so excited about when our English teacher announced them. Thank you, B, for existing and for being in my life for the time that you were.
Your friend and go-to project partner,