You were 16 when you died. A single day older than I was. I suppose I caught up to you in the dizzy mayhem your death left behind and in the 15 years that have passed since.
Your death colored my entire existence. You jumped, all those years ago, without me. Newspapers the next day, unaware of your adolescence, declared you a man, saying you’d jumped, headfirst it seemed, after trying to drive your 1987 Honda Civic off that overpass.
I fucking hate Honda Civics. Still.
It didn’t stop me, at your funeral, from picking up bits of that car from the street. We were a hoard of teenagers, crossing that street, draped in black, pierced and broken, bits of neon sparkling from our wrists, ears and fingernails.
What I remember most about finding out about you is the floor tile I stared at, trying – at 16 – to comprehend what you had done. It’s the tissue box they sent me home with, the kind I still see at hospitals and on tv, the kind that still feels like some fucked up security blanket I clung to in the aftermath of your death. I remember tiny details about that night, the way the carpet felt on my legs in my room when I collapsed in tears, the hug the girls wrapped me up in later when “Jumper” came on mid-cleaning frenzy. I remember the weather at your funeral. The way your jacket smelled.
There’s a burden to being the last person to see you alive. I know you didn’t mean it. I know you’d take it back if you could. But I’ve tattooed your memory on my back, and you have to know that I carry you with me always, that what happened to you has shaped me.
I can’t stop the blame. I’ve tried for 15 years to let it go, for almost half my life, I’ve tried. I remember you, that afternoon, literal minutes before your death, asking if I wanted a ride the next morning and I said no, more than once, that I’d take the bus. I remember that last cigarette, bummed from my ex-boyfriend’s older brother as we walked to your car and still, I kick myself for having smoked too much of it.
I know you’d made up your mind. I know that. But I can’t help but drag myself though the what ifs, can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I’d said yes to that ride, if you’d smoked more of that cigarette, if we’d made plans to get together next week, next month, next whatever. I wonder if it would have kept you here, among the living.
Maybe it was an inevitable eventuality, your death. Maybe I could have stopped it, could have helped save you. I don’t know. I’ll never know.
I just miss you, 15 years later and all. I still miss you.