This terrible day is here again – eight years ago, you died. You were 41. And you died.
Eight years are a long time. I find that now when I think of you, my first thoughts aren’t of that day. Instead, I think about when we first met and the times you took me dancing at Pegasus and The Eagle. I remember our Friday night ritual of Chinese food and a rental movie while I was in graduate school and very poor. I definitely think about my prom. You were the best prom date ever. People still say that. My girl friends, they remember. You danced with each one of them, but you always made sure I was okay. I was just chatting about watching the movie ‘An Early Frost’ with you when I was 15 and had no idea what HIV or AIDS even was.
We were friends, the best of friends, for over twenty years. I was such a lost little girl when your family moved into the neighborhood. You were the big brother I had always wanted. You were the true friend I had no idea I needed.
I do remember that terrible day, though. I know exactly where I stood in the hallway of my then-workplace while first my mother, then yours told me the news. I can still feel the chair pressing into my side as I tried to catch my breath. And then, hours later, I was in your home. Me and the dogs. I had offered to stay overnight to help your family with the dogs. But I also wanted to say good-bye privately.
Your poor dogs. You had been whisked away in an ambulance and didn’t get to say farewell. You knew you wouldn’t return is what your sister told me. And you never did. But they kept waiting for you. I tried to explain things to them. I tried to offer myself as a source of comfort. But while they were content to curl up with, I wasn’t you. So we curled up in your bed and waited for dawn. For a new life without you. They would go home with your mother after the funeral. And I would return to my life.
While I was there, I remembered the promise. I knew Jimmy wouldn’t be around to fulfill it so I did it. It took me hours, but I did. Ledcat was a little horrified, but she didn’t have a gay male best friend. Sometimes I hope you know. That you didn’t worry about it. That it never crossed your mind. But it had when you were younger so that was good enough for me.
You were the best friend ever. And you died too young. I miss you so much that I sometimes feel like I might just die, too. I will never have another best friend. Not like you.
But I do have Laura. You met her and you approved. That makes me happy. You used to teasingly whisper “No one puts Susie in the corner.” She makes sure that’s true.
When one of our critters crosses the rainbow bridge, I envision you there with a big bowl of mini biscuits and a dry erase board to keep track of things. Of course, you are sitting on the floor so the dogs can lick you and realize that they are safe, healthy and free. I can’t imagine you doing anything else in whatever afterlife there is.
I miss you. I love you.
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