In my teenager’s eyes, he was beautiful. Billy was a leather jacket-wearing musician with unruly dark hair that was as rebellious as his nature. His piercing blue eyes and his grin that was both seductive and mischievous made him every girl’s ideal bad boy. But the thing was, his heart was pure. He was the type of friend who may not have always had his own shit together, but he would certainly not hesitate to come running when you needed. And for a brief flicker in time when I was 18, he set his romantic sights on me.
Four years later when I heard Billy had died in a tragic accident, I was in college 300 miles away from our hometown. It’s fitting really, that he left this earth in an act of devil-may-care so like his very personality. He lived and he died with fierceness. I guess some lights are just too bright to burn as long as the rest of us. But I was dead broke, working at Target on nights and weekends while also student teaching to complete my bachelor’s degree. There was no way I could make it to his funeral with the pennies I had left. I mourned from afar, in disbelief that such a bright light could be extinguished so soon. And to this day, when I think of that drop-dead smile of his, I regret not finding a way to go say goodbye to him.
Last week I learned that another high school friend of mine has passed unexpectedly. Roosevelt, but we called him Rosie. It brought all the memories back, of the both of them. Roosevelt was reserved and quiet… almost shy. A musician but also a staggeringly talented artist with pen or paint. I knew him less well than Billy, but remember him fondly for his kindness and easy smile for me, even as the gawky band dork I was. I wish his heart had been as physically strong as his spirit was kind. The world is less without him, too.
But this time, I’m not penniless. This time, I need to ask for time off from work and I will need to make arrangements for the baby. But I will not kick myself for another missed goodbye. Instead, I will make the trip back to my childhood town with my brother, to mourn alongside the others from our adolescent group; the crew of misfits no one would have ever thought would stay in touch for over twenty years. And though we are all older and supposedly wiser, we still hurt the same. We will gather to raise our glasses to The Anarchist and The Artist, cheers to their memory and return to our own worlds. A little less dim without them, but with no regrets.