"I will miss you more on some days than others, but I could never love you any less"
--Brendan Irving, aged 17, writes to Olivia Lloyd, aged 16, while she is away at summer camp.
It is still difficult to look through pictures from what is now my childhood--you are a prominent fixture in them, oscillating from brown curls to a mane of black-and-white hair, depending on the month and year. It is so odd, finding a photograph of you that I haven't seen before, your jawline well-defined as always, a trait that I found handsome even as a girl. Although my life is not really so different as it was when we were together, I am struck by the thought that we lived a different life in a different universe--if I only could pull the curtain between those two worlds, I might still see you again. Lying in the grass of some public park--driving too fast on back roads, and covering the floor of the car with doughnut crumbs and coffee stains.
I am 24, an age that sounds distinctly adult, and you would be 25. But in my memory, you barely reach 19. Is it so strange, to hold a lingering affection for someone so young in my memory?
It took me a very long time to be happy again after you left, and sometimes feeling so happy and in love now still feels a bit like a betrayal to the rarity that was us. How often does one find real love before 30? How did I find it twice, and in the same town? Do I just love too easily?
Perhaps the last is true, and definitively your fault. You taught me that love is really the only remedy for this nameless panic and dread that not-so-occasionally erupts in my chest. It is not surprising that this love I now possess became apparent when I realized that I was looking into the eyes of my best friend, my greatest confidant, my playmate, both serious and childlike. Not so different from the reluctant love that formed between us over a couple of summers.
But instead, it's just me. And you are back there--somewhere behind that curtain that I cannot quite push aside.
The anger is finally gone, five-point-five years later. The panic at our love ending has eased, six years later. But I will never shake the feeling that you were my big failure. I couldn't have possibly--but there is a lingering nag that I should have found a way to keep you alive. I cannot shake the feeling that this was on my great cosmic "to-do" list--and I missed it.
This feeling does not permeate every waking hour,
but hit me in moments, like when I see a photograph of you that I had not noticed before. It is almost like discovering a new memory with you, as I try to decipher your mental state, your facial expression, what you are trying to tell the camera.
I am reminded that eventually, this re-discovery of living moments will end. And then the feeling of profound failure settles in, and I cannot shake it for hours. But as the years pass, the moment becomes rarer, and today--your birthday--is the first time in a very long time that I have felt the profound sting of defeat at your preemptive departure.
There's no one in particular to blame for it, but now I will be sad and missing you forever, and at least moderately annoyed that nearly everyone I meet from here on out will not have had the immense pleasure of a moment of your crazy company.
"who the hell can see forever?"