A Collection of Memories Retold for the Sole Proprietor of these Beating Chambers
It seems strange that I should be prefacing our story with your funeral.
You had a closed casket, just like you’d said you wanted. You never wanted anyone to look at you once you were gone; slack jawed, cold, empty, and stuffed into some dress that your mom made you wear to church on Sundays. It wouldn’t have mattered, because you weren’t there anyway. The body in that casket, the body your mother wept over as she cradled you in her arms after it was over, was just a hollow shell. I told myself this as I traced the molding on your coffin, but deep down I was thankful that I didn’t have to look at you like that.
Your uncle talked about how you were the sweetest girl he’d ever known. Your cousin, Barry, talked about all the sweet little memories he had of you from your childhood together. Your mother talked about how she didn’t see how she was going to go on after this, before breaking down into tears as your brother consoled her. Henry said it was the beginning of the end of his life.
I didn’t know what to say to these people. At first, I was angry. I wished I could tell them they didn’t know you at all because if they did, they’d known that sometimes you could be a real bitch, and all of those fond memories were interlaced with more memories of heartache, and that you would never want someone to spend the rest of their life mourning you. Most of all, they’d know that the day you died was just an ordinary day. I wanted to scream this loud enough that it stopped the conversation and cause everyone in the room to look at me. I wanted them to know that you were mine above all and that they had no right to feel this way about you while I was expected to hold this together. I wanted to do this, but I didn’t, and now I’m glad that I didn’t.
Because now I know that they, of course, have just as much right to miss you as I ever will. I know that the you that I knew was only one surface of something so complex. You were a polyhedron with ten thousand faces of which I’d only seen a fraction, and that the fraction of you that I saw was so completely different than what your uncle, or Barry, or Henry, or your mother saw.
The spectrum of you is a much larger gradient than I could ever conceive, and yet the picture we painted with the colors of you I knew is still the most artistic thing I’ve ever created.
That’s why this story is for you and you alone; because this is our story.
This is our masterpiece and no one else’s.
Chapter 1: Do you remember when we met?
We weren’t some cliché, best-friends-who’ve-known-each-other-since-2nd-grade-and-finally-get-together-after-years-of-denial couple. We weren’t even the “high school sweethearts” who stay together for the rest of their life (although, unfortunately, that may have a bit to do with you kicking the bucket a year after we should have been in college). We did, however, meet when we were in the 11th grade.
You were wearing a sweater that the sleeves had been pulled on so much that they hung past your knuckles. You were wearing that sweater and tight jeans that hugged your thighs and accentuated your love handles. Your hair was long then; long and wavy and dark red. It was one of the few times in my life that I saw your natural hair color. You were standing in front of the school on a Thursday afternoon, and I tried not to stare, except you were arguing with your then-boyfriend, Thomas, at the top of your lungs. Everyone was staring, so it didn’t seem as weird.
Looking back, the thing I remember most about that day was how your eyes seemed to be on fire. Any time you were mad, they lit up like an inferno, and it made it impossible for anyone to be anything but mesmerized by how green your eyes were, much less stay mad at you. At least, that’s what I thought when we first started dating. I found out later, of course, that it was very easy to stay mad at you sometimes.
But back to the point, you were arguing with Thomas. Then you looked straight past him and looked at me. Being the introverted teenager I was, I quickly looked down at my sneakers and hunched my shoulders forward. I knew you’d seen me staring, but I hoped that you would take my awkward reaction as an acceptable apology. When I glanced back up, you were right in front of me. I didn’t really know what to do, so I started vomiting words at you, saying that I was sorry for staring and something about how it was none of my business and then I think I actually began to give you relationship advance somewhere in my rambling before regressing back to just saying sorry repeatedly.
You cut me off by kissing me, full on the lips. I tensed, gripping the strap of my book bag tighter than necessary and hunching my shoulders even more. You dragged your teeth against my bottom lip before pulling away. Do you know how they say everything stops when you have a magical kiss? I suppose that kiss wasn’t very magical, because nothing stopped and the world didn’t start spinning and I didn’t lose any of my senses momentarily. In fact, I was all too aware of the shocked outbursts from our classmates, particularly Thomas. I stood there for a moment, not completely sure how to respond.
“I-I’m sorry, I’m not…. I’m not gay,” I finally managed, though my mouth was dry and my voice cracked a little in the middle of the sentence.
You didn’t say anything. You turned around to look at Thomas with a look of pure hatred (one that I grew to know well, unfortunately) before picking up your books and stomping over to the junior parking lot where your car was parked. I remember Thomas giving me a look that was equal parts confusion and disdain.
I never found out what that argument was about. I never found out, and I never will and that doesn’t really bother me in the slightest. It didn’t matter, because that was your past. The time I had with you had been the present and that was all that really mattered. The day the past started mattering to me was the day you were no longer part of my present. Other than that, I honestly couldn’t care less what sort of past you’d had with Thomas or why you felt the need to kiss me that day. And despite mostly being shocked and (seemingly) upset at the time, now I realize how thankful for that outburst.
That was the only real contact we had for the next three months.