Sometimes I wake in the night reaching to my right, still expecting your warmth. You always lay to my right. Though only I bear witness to those groggy fumbles, that expectation always leaves me a little embarrassed. Even ashamed.
Some memories are still so vivid. You’d think by this point they’d begin to fade, but they refuse. The scruff of your face, how it itched my cheeks when your lips fell on mine in the middle of the night, that sensation is forever etched into my mind.
Your smell was always a comfort. I still remember it. I’d steal your t-shirts to sleep in when you left for tour and I missed you. I’d find myself awake on your side of the bed next to the wall, too.
You were never one for public affection. In fact, I know you hated to be touched too often, it made you claustraphobic. But you always appeased me. You always let me have my way. You knew I liked to wrap my legs around yours while we lay on the the couch, while we slept at night. You let me hold your hand as we walked down the same street we’d walked for years.
Nothing made me happier than when affection came from you, though. Sitting in easy quiet, smoking a joint on a car ride home, you’d rest your hand on my thigh and I knew there was no greater joy in the world. You loved me too and that’s all that mattered.
You liked winters together, but I liked the summers. Seeking salvation from the heat indoors during the day, venturing out at night to the park with a couple 40 ozs of Heineken made for memories that will forever leave a smile on my face. (OK whatever, they aren’t 40s, but what did you want me to call them? 24s?)
One summer night, it rained. The heat drenched us in sweat all day, and was washed away by the warm droplets from the moonlit sky. We were 22, but we ran screeching and laughing down the street toward our darkened park with no cares, splashing in puddles along the way until we fell in a fit of giggles in the grass. And we kissed. I write about that night a lot.
Our most special moments seemed always to take place under the stars. When boys still asked girls to be their girlfriends, with sprinkles of light speckled across a chilly autumn sky, you asked for me to be yours. We wrapped ourselves tight in blankets found in the back of your dad’s old truck. You wore your studded olive green hoodie that always poked me anytime I tried to steal it away.
Everything we lived, we lived together. Our triumphs, our accomplisments, our heartaches, we felt together. Our names were synonymous to each other. We were and still are, lifetime buddies.
Our familes cared for each of us like each was one of their own. Your parents supported my treck into college as much as they did yours. Your older sister was my role model for the epitomy of cool. My humungous family accepted you as a son, a grandson, a cousin, a brother. Your presence was mandatory at every family function. One of my cousins often tells me it feels like I removed a member of the family from their lives without consent.
Sometimes I wish I could shake our memories out of my mind the way you can shake a picture from an etch-a-sketch. The best ones, like you teaching me to love hockey, or buying our first ornament to adorn our first Christmas tree purchased together, often ache more than the memories you’d expect to hurt.
I can’t remove them, though. Even if I could, I’d have learned my lesson from Eternal Sunshine. It’s almost shameful to wish to erase them, when so many may never know love in that way. Who would I even be today were it not for that love? It’s a scenario I can’t, and don’t illustrate for myself.