I’m really struggling with this poetry thing. In today’s assignment we were asked to include fog and metaphor in an elegy, a poetic form associated with loss and mourning. You guys, I started writing this poem weeks ago, with the idea of using it as lyrics over Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 3. No joke. It’s actually pretty freaky that this assignment came together as it did.
But here’s the thing. The poem is crap. I worked on it some more tonight and… I just can’t. It’s not right. If I include as much as a hint of rhyme it feels cheesy. If I don’t, it feels disjointed. I just don’t feel like I can convey through poetry what I can through regular old prose. And I want to get this one right. So instead of elegiac couplets I’m going to use paragraphs…
This story is about a boy. Let’s call him Boy. It’s hard to say, but I think I may have loved him. At the very least he was the first boy I had real feelings for. I suppose you could call it a crush. That’s the term we typically use to describe the feelings of a 13 year old girl but, like my poetry, it wouldn’t really be right.
These feelings were not mutual. He liked my gorgeous and exotic friend Jasmine*. He called me at my house exactly one time to discuss Jasmine’s potential feelings for him. And that was like the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It didn’t even matter WHY he called. HE CALLED. ME.
For some reason I feel like I shouldn’t say this, but the truth is he probably wasn’t as well off as most of the rest of us in the crowd we ran around with. I didn’t really recognize or appreciate it at the time, but I do in retrospect. He had a green t-shirt with a picture of a banana made of marijuana leaves on it that he wore most of the time. He sold his fellow middle schoolers Airheads for a quarter that, at some point, I realized he was stealing from the grocery store. He smoked cigarettes and drank liquor and wasn’t that into doing schoolwork.
But so did a lot of kids, and he was a good guy. At least he was always kind to me. This during a time when my self-esteem was virtually nonexistent and even my “friends” got their kicks out of calling me names like Mr. Ed and La-whora Lend-a-hand (which, for the record, was so COMPLETELY undeserved it’s ridiculous). He always made me feel like I belonged. Or at least didn’t make me feel like I didn’t belong. He treated me like a friend, a real and deserving friend.
He was also quite smart. And witty. Hilarious really. I have one very vivid memory of an incident involving a hot pink, blowup flamingo at our local Six Flags. By vivid I mean I remember nothing about what happened. Just the flamingo and how epically funny it was. At one point we had a lot of classes together, and he is arguably responsible for a few of those, “Needs to control disruptive talking,” comments found on my report cards.
Then high school came along and we sort of just went our separate ways. I started hanging out with a different group of friends, and I think he may have transferred to another school. I don’t actually know what happened to him. Just that he wasn’t there anymore.
I saw him one time while in college at a bar in downtown Denver. He looked fairly drunk and was mixed up in some sort of drama with a girl who looked equally trashed. I think he might have seen me too, but I can’t be sure. If he did, he made the wise choice to focus on the job at hand, and I thought it best not to interrupt. Nearly 10 years later I opened Facebook and saw his face plastered on a picture of a flyer under the words:
Missing? How could that be? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Sure, terrible things happen. But in real life, the kind that happens outside of television, people don’t just go missing.
That was a little over two years ago. Thanks to the internet I know that there was a flurry of activity for the first little while after his disappearance. His family started a Facebook page for him. It was in the news. A candlelight vigil was held in his honor. But then he just stayed missing and the spotlight sort of fizzled out. I checked online periodically, when I saw a flamingo and he crossed my mind, to see if there were any updates. There never was.
Then sometime last month I had a dream about him. If I had written this the next day I would have remembered the dream, but I don’t now. The dream doesn’t matter anyway. Other than it prompted me to look him up once again.
There it was this time. His body was found. The family had been notified. Buried in the fine print. No big headline, just a comment in a thread. A link to an obituary. Enough to believe it, but not quite enough. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Drug overdose? I suppose the how and the why doesn’t matter at this point. It’s still just sad.
I haven’t talked to him since we were 13. When I probably loved him. However unlikely it was before, it’s now even less likely that I will bump into him and have the chance to tell him how much he meant to me once upon a time. I would hope that would make him feel good.
I learned about his death in the morning before the fog cleared, and the gray sky just made it all feel that much more depressing. I couldn’t stop thinking about finding his dead body after two years, rotted and decaying. Or rationalize how my heart could continue to beat, the often mundane days rolling in one after the other, while he just ceased to exist. Or lived on in memory, if you can call that living, frozen at age 13. Until even the memory of him fades away into nothing more than the collective knowledge that before us there were others that lived and breathed and felt and hoped and were whole, complicated people just like us. Is that what death is?
*Not her real name.