I have this picture that your brother gave to me. I think this was taken about 12 years ago, if I’m not mistaken, and I was being my typical drunken self. You, however, are looking amazing.
You always did.
Along my path, I have learned to see the balance of things and I understand that there truly are infinite levels to the grey areas of our lives. For you, though, I am making an exception:
I am going to leave this picture in color.
It’s going to be the only picture on this site that I leave in color, because shades of grey cannot fully illustrate the sheer amount of vibrancy and laughter that you splashed into the life of everyone who’s path you crossed.
The irony is that I spend so much time trying to forget things and this is a moment I want to lock away. If I recall it too much the details will get muddled and I don’t want the image of this time we had together distorted by the malleability of the human memory. I want to remember you just like this, and save the moment for those rough times when I need a smile.
Or when I can’t come to grips with “why”?
For the life of me, I have never figured out what made your brother befriend me. Cross Country, to be honest, was a sport I got into by default: I just sucked at everything else. At the time, I really wanted to play basketball, but my relationship with food caused me to become too chubby to effectively make it up and down the court. I figured I could run to lose weight. That’s all. I never thought it would amount to a huge part of my life, or connect me with so many amazing people.
Russ was the track-star and you were the cheerleader and you guys were two of the most popular people in High School. As a group, it worked, though. Looking back at it, there were so many unique people in our circle of friends that we managed to find a place for everyone to fit in and be accepted. For a very long time, the group of us were inseparable, and regardless of what shenanigans I was into, you accepted me. Even when I left Rhode Island behind.
The entire High School experience wasn’t kind to me, but you were always a light to me. We’d run into each other in the hall and you chat with me and give me a hug and I would think: “Is she really talking to me?!” Considering the way I was treated by a lot of people, I can’t begin to tell you how much that meant to me. You were athletic and beautiful and popular…but you were also kind hearted and for the first time in my life I realized that popular girls didn’t always have to be mean. You were the first beautiful girl that didn’t treat me like I was a complete weirdo.
I loved being around you. You were mischievous…you were a complete goofball with an amazing smile and the way the freckled ridge of your nose would crinkle when you laughed would completely melt me to the floor…and I swear you were always laughing. Always. Your eyes had this twinkle. We all noticed it.
You were so full of life.
As with any girl like you, there no shortage of suitors. I tolerated some of them, but most of them would make me angry: they weren’t good to you. Sometimes I felt as though they were just trying to claim a piece of your energy and spirit for themselves. People can be so selfish, and you gave it so freely, but in my head I wanted for you to have someone who would care for you and treat you like the treasure you were. I remember escaping into my head and wishing that I could be that guy…
Because I was completely in love with you.
Yes, it’s true.
What was I going to do, tell you that?! I was this awkward kid with a penchant for dyed hair and a hopeless “grunge” way of dressing. I would have been crazy to just come out and say that. My life was full of problems and I hated myself. I had been rejected so often that I didn’t want to risk it again. And I didn’t want to lose you as a friend, either…you meant too much to me.
It is part of who we are, as humans, to evolve and change as we move through life. We grew apart.
There was a part of me that had this hunch that if I didn’t get out of Rhode Island and get away from it all, I wouldn’t get out of there alive. The Navy was good to me. It allowed me to see the world, learn to lead, and grow as a person. However, in this process I lost balance and there were people that I allowed to slip away from me for large lengths of time. You were one of them, and I am sorry I disappeared. It’s been over a decade since I had last seen you and it breaks my heart to realize that we don’t know each other anymore.
I’m am so sorry if I let you down. What saddens me is that my path has ultimately led me to a place when I dedicate my life to helping other people, yet I feel as though I have failed many people close to me. Such is life. There is a lesson to be learned here, and it is not lost on me.
The last time I remember hanging out with you was about 11 or 12 years ago. At the time, I was on military leave and we were sitting at the bar at Manhattan’s, on Mineral Spring Avenue in Rhode Island. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure where everyone else was. It was one of those rare moments when we were alone, having a beer, eating cheap bar food and simply talking. Out of nowhere you turned to me and said:
And that is where our paths separated. You were dating someone and I was going back to Virginia Beach to deploy. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to you, or your family…so I didn’t do it.
But I should have. I should have kissed you and pulled you close to me and told you that I loved you because, even if nothing became of it, at least you would have gone through your life knowing that. I should have protected you.
I’m sorry I didn’t say it sooner, but I needed to say it now.
Rest in peace, Bonnie. You are loved and missed.