He has been heavy on my mind since his passing in early May. I have been struggling to find meaning and connection in his loss, and I have found the most comfort in reflecting on our story. I never want to forget the details of our time together, so I decided to chronicle it here. It brings me comfort knowing these fond memories will last a lifetime.
Beginning of our sophomore year of Chapman – I walked into our International Relations Class on the first day and naturally, was late. I speedily slipped into the seat next to you and gave the universal “sorry I’m an asshole but can I sit here?” nod. Our professor began talking about our textbook and we both looked at each other, hoping the other would pull the textbook out. “Yeah I don’t have it either.” You whispered. I smiled, at least I wasn’t the only unprepared student. That was one of the only classes I attended all semester.
We were assigned to the same group project in which we had to represent a country in a model UN simulation. We met as a group every week, and I was all over the place. I can’t remember what our country was, but I remember you would always greet me with a huge smile on your face.
We would run into each other around campus every now and then, and you would always ask me when I planned on making it to class. I would laugh and continue smoking my cigarette. I invited you to parties, but we ran in different crowds. I was full speed ahead in a self-destructive spiral, and there was no slowing me down.
I came to class for our model UN seminar wildly underdressed – you give me a disapproving look and ask why I didn’t dress up. I looked around to see everyone in business clothes – and then back to me in my Lil Wayne cut off and leopard denim.
I figured that would be the last time I saw each other. But you texted me a week later inviting me to a party that I was already planning on attending. I got a little giddy (okay, a lot giddy) and realized I had a crush on you – a crush that never really faded.
We hung out all night and eventually went home. I knew you were shy, but I wish you had made some sort of gesture to indicate the crush was reciprocated. I texted you once I got home and made some sort of joke about you not making a move. Next thing I knew, you were at my doorstep. You were nervous. So was I – sophomore year was the first time I was single in two years, and I didn’t know how to deal with butterflies. All I knew was that I loved the feeling of being around you.
For the next week, the last week of the semester, we spent all of our time together. The time came for me to go back to Seattle for the holidays. I knew in my heart I was packing for a one-way trip, but couldn’t find it in myself to tell you. You came over and helped me back and offered to drive me to the airport, but I insisted on taking a taxi (The Pre-Uber era…also known as the stone age). You helped me carry my bags to the car and gave me a hug goodbye, and I remember driving in the back of that taxi, listening to this song, and being in pain at the end of this chapter.
Over the holidays I decided to come back to Chapman for interterm so that I could pack up my apartment and properly close out with my SoCal experience. I told myself I couldn’t start things up with you again because it would be too hard to leave you. But within hours of being back, my heart took over and there you were on my doorstep again. That smile, those eyes, your warmth.
We spent most of interterm together. I distinctly remember you came over one afternoon and we just laid together for hours hanging out, catching up, and holding each other. As you were leaving, you told me you could kiss me all day, and I had the biggest smile on my face. I felt the same.
On my last night, you picked me up and drove me out to the beach. We talked about our hopes and dreams and how we were going to travel the world. In the chaos of my life, you were calming. I can never thank you enough for standing by me when I was struggling to make it through. I normally hate hugs, and you respected that. But as I said goodbye to you, I gave you quite possibly the biggest hug I’ve ever given anyone. I was so lucky to have called you mine, even if for a fleeting moment in time.
I came back to visit Chapman and surprise my friend for her birthday – naturally you helped me plan the whole event. I spent some time with you, but it was different – we were different. My heart was healing from a lot of stress and loss in the last year, and I wasn’t comfortable around you anymore. On my last day visiting, we went on a drive. As you dropped me off, I looked to you with tears in my eyes and told you how much I missed you. You asked me if I was ever going to come back, and I said no. You told me you wished it could work out, but we weren’t ever going to be in the same city again – not for the foreseeable future. I got out of the car and sat next to my friend’s house. I wasn’t ready to go back inside. So I sat on the side of her house and wept – for you, for the change, and for the unknown. I felt as though my life was on pause while everyone’s carried on.
We went quite a while after that visit without talking. I came back to visit again in the fall but couldn’t bring myself to tell you or reach out to you. In the spring, you went abroad and I went back to visit Chapman – for the first time, you weren’t there. We played phone tag for a while before eventually getting around the Skyping and I got to hear about your Spanish adventures. I was so happy for you to see the world – I was happy for you without being sad about us. It felt like we were finally becoming friends – and it was a new kind of butterflies.
I came down to Orange County to visit with my dad on his business trip. You drove out to Newport Beach and met my dad briefly before we walked the beach and talked about our lives and post-college plans. We talked for hours, and finally walked back to my hotel. You were lingering and I didn’t want you to leave. We walked out to the balcony, and you kissed me. I laughed and said, “Took you long enough.” I was so happy to be back in your arms.
My last Chapman visit was for graduation. I had a boyfriend at the time and subsequently no intention of reaching out to you. Seeing you last fall was so intense and I didn’t want to put myself in a position to make a poor choice. But Chapman being the small place it was, we ran into each other within hours of my arrival. The butterflies came rushing back and my sense of urgency to spend time with you overcame my rationale. It didn’t feel like cheating because you were always my first choice. Spending time with you was so amazing, but it inevitably brought another painful goodbye – I had no idea when I would be in SoCal again, and it became final that this was goodbye for a long while.
This was the last time I saw you. I heard through the grapevine that you had a girlfriend now, and at first that was weird to hear. In the four years we had known each other, we never talked about dating other people. We went to brunch and I was anxious for you to tell me, but I didn’t want to seem nosy. Towards the end of our meal, you told me about her. I could see from the way you talked about her that it was genuine, heartfelt, and soulful love. She lifted you higher and you found a soul as radiant as yours. I was so happy for you. We were back to our baseline, and the best place I could imagine us in: Friends who want to see each other shine. I’m so glad that I got to see you shine, Eric.
You texted me and said you had a work trip to San Jose, my future residence. I made you promise to come visit me when I was down there. I texted you a few weeks later saying that I feared I would never find a guy who treated me as well as you did. You assured me that wasn’t true, and I would find the right person. That was our last conversation.
I delete my texts everyday, but the day I heard you were gone, I sent you a text that, to this day, I can’t bring myself to delete:
I miss you so so much already. I can’t believe you’re gone – I don’t think any of us can. I am so grateful for the time we had together and the memories we made. You were one of the truest lights and loves in my life. Rest easy, Eric. I expect you will have all the best music prepared by the time we meet again.