I was outside, pacing beneath the spanish moss trying to come down from one of my worst panic attacks. Tears were rolling down my cheeks without relent and I was wondering how the hell I was going to get on stage in two minutes and muster up that same old facade and smile. Breathing in wasn’t easy and it felt as if there was nothing left to breathe out. I could feel the redness in my cheeks and the heaviness in my chest. The stress of everything was finally surrounding me.
I closed my eyes and whispered a silent prayer. God answered. You stood at the door and there was no look of pity on your face, only one of hope. I crashed into you, still shaking, and instantly I felt better. You held on tight as if we’d done this a million times before, but we hadn’t. You’d never seen me cry, much less panic. I’m not a pretty crier and I apologized for that, but you just laughed. I smiled up at you and tried to wipe my tears off your jacket. “It’s okay,” you told me and I explained everything to you in broken scentences.
We stood there for a moment as you let me collect myself. A minute or so later, we were back inside and I was on stage, yelling with faux excitement. I watched you the whole time. I held on to your gaze because there was strength there. So, thank you for not running like so many people have. Thank you for continuing to gracefully protect me and always being willing to share a hug. You’re such an amazing human.
It has come to my mind a lot lately that this town is memory soaked. Every corner, every trail, and every building has a story stuck to it. Every person, every face, has a name that rings bells in your head and flashes images through your mind.
Where are your stomping grounds? Recently, mine seem to be growing. It seems that every exit off the highway has a beacon to a place I’ve momentarily considered home.
Drive north. Chattanooga street art and photographs of my best friend are the glue that holds the “Clumpies Icecream” sticker on to the back windshield of my car. Pura Vida juice bottles sit on my nightstand and ferment, because I’m too scared to loose the memories. They’ll always be there.
Drive east. Find the place that I’ve spent my summers in the Georgia heat. The Camp Christian lake begs us to jump in and maybe one summer we will. I’ve walked this path a thousand times and each time a new memory was made. Megan chipping her teeth. The night that I was sure there was a wolf prowling. So many midnight sneak-outs and games of truth or dare hidden in the dark. The place where I found God’s glory and I felt His grace.
Fly west. Seattle and Tacoma nestle the city of Puyallup where I spent that week senior year. A thursday night high school football game and friends I’ll probably never get the chance to meet again still soak the jacket I bought at the Tacoma mall. The henna from the state fair has washed away, but the memories never will.
Stay here. Marietta, Roswell, Atlanta: my true stomping grounds. As moving out edges nearer, more and more ancient memories swarm me. Land of a Thousand Hills still feels like french presses with Banter Squad. The Beltline and Kennesaw Mountain still remind me of Noah’s video camera. The Krispy Kreme in Marietta still makes me choke back the tears when I remember Jacob messing around, parking his car on the first night I truly met him. The one in Roswell is a reminder of free donut night after babysitting a wedding. Driving the roads here have a soundtrack that ranges from Bryce Vine to ODESZA.
They say you shouldn’t live in the past and that what has already happened doesn’t define you. I think it should. No, not your faults, but the memories. The memories that make you throw your head back laughing and the ones that bring tears to your eyes. That is who you are. That is what you’re made of.
Tomorrow marks one year since we lost you. One year since I got that phone call and collapsed outside in the rain. I still miss you every day. I still cry at the thought that I won’t have the chance to see you again. There are so many words that I failed to speak when you were here, so I pray them every day. You were a source of such brilliant, captivating light. There are days that I am glad for you, and the ceasing of your suffering. There are days that I wish I could join you and even more days that I wish I could bring you back.
We failed you, dear friend. You and I were in it together, leaning hard on the knowledge that we were not alone in this fight. Yet, no matter how many people you have on your side the fight still feels like one against eight-billion. We leaned so hard that I’m pretty sure we both knew one of us would soon break. It was you and I so wish that I could have been there with duct tape to patch you back up. I wasn’t, and all I have to hang on to are the last words I said to you, “La vie est tres effrayant, mais c’est tres belle aussi.” Life is beautiful, friend. Life is so damn beautiful, but its scary as hell.
Maybe, it was your time, but that night I cursed God for letting you go so soon. Its hard to keep touch of reality when all you hear in your head is that voice telling you to cave. I wish we could have kept you from caving. You were and still are so loved. You filled us all with memories and happiness. We are so thankful for that which you gave us. I am so thankful to God for giving me your friendship.
Rest easy dear friend. Stay alive in our memories. Help us to become even half as amazing as you were. I’ll be looking up for the comfort of you smiling down on me.
So much love,
Fatigue washed over me and I could no longer find the will to carry on. My back slammed heavily against the wall and I sank to the floor. Tears burst from my eyes as my throat closed. I was gasping for air, but I couldn’t find any. First, I felt it in my toes, the light tingling you get when your foot falls asleep; but the feeling grew more extreme and deeper. The feeling was racing toward my hips, engulfing the entire lower half of my body in what was beginning to feel like flames. I was utterly terrified. It spread to my fingertips and my mind was telling me to find my parents but I wasn’t getting near enough air. As I tried to stand, the edges of my vision went black. My legs couldn’t hold me so, I fell back to the hard tile. My whole body shook and my breath became quicker from it’s already astonishing pace. All I could do was scream, I tried, but there was no air to pass over my vocal chords. I heard footsteps over the fuzziness of my mind. I felt my body being lifted from the floor and someone yelled, “Breathe!” But I couldn’t. It got worse and worse. I was terrified that this was how my life was going to end, weak and desperate for salvation. My cheeks were soaked, my vision was black, but the worst part was, I had no control.