“We weren’t thinking. To tell you the truth, everything just shut down.”
To this day, every time a therapist asks me what was going through my mind in that one terrible moment that changed my life, I just remember the scene. It was me and six other guys, all on our knees with tears dripping down our faces. It may seem a bit dramatic, I know, but you didn’t know James. We all knew he was going to be a star one day, we just knew he would. But then everything changed. Everything changed.
The headmaster of the school arrived a few hours later; he drove up directly from his weekend hunting lodge to comfort us. He changed into a black suit for the occasion and was even stiffer than usual when he found us in the dorm hallway.
“Gentlemen,” he said. Highly assuring, the headmaster; it was what made him so good with kids. The last time I saw James was the highpoint of his life. Two hours before his death he told me it was the happiest, the freest, the strongest he’d ever felt. And, ironically he had said, he never felt more like a real man than in that so unmanly moment. Knowing James and his tendency to go silent during an argument, I’ve always wondered if the last words he ever spoke to me were his true last words ever. To this day I see his ghost pretty often, but he doesn’t talk in death any more than he did in life. He’s just a quiet kid when he’s not on stage. And that’s what he’ll always be: a quiet kid not on stage. God, I hate so much. Time. Fate. Life. Dreams. Men. All of it.
Now I don’t know if you’re as good a therapist as I’ve had in the past, but if you are you’ll want to know why I hate all of those things. Why do I hate everything so much? One word: James. Why? He. Deserved. Better. And you know what? We deserved better. We were kids, just starting to understand what being alive felt like and only just embracing the feeling that we could think for ourselves and make our own choices. We were so young and so full of life like only a group of teenage boys could be, and everything was ripped from our fingertips and buried beneath six feet of dirt. But still, it was the aftermath that was the worst.
Like I said before, we weren’t thinking at the time; we shut down, the world shut down when we found out James was gone. But the aftermath… God, it was hellish. We wanted to know whose fault it was and all of the real reasons were covered up; in their place, a good man was exposed as a pillar of wickedness and his life was taken from him too. We lost so much in that time: our friend and our teacher ripped from us so suddenly in such an ugly way and with no goddamn reason why. No goddamn reason why. Not a single goddamn reason.
You’re wondering how I feel about this all now, how I felt then, what made me change. I don’t want to talk about it, I really don’t. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s none of your business; I know what you’ll say to that. But I’m not paying you, my insurance company is; and I’m only here tonight so you can help me with my relationship. Ever since I left school, I can’t keep a girl to save my life, and I know I’ve been through a hundred this past year but this one is different and what I feel for her is starting to get real and I want to preserve this, what we have. That’s the only reason why I’m here; for her.
So, more about James, because I like talking about him. It’s kind of my only way to honor him and it’s what he deserves, you know?
Looking back, that kid turned out to be brave as hell. We were all afraid of our dads at the time. Who am I kidding? Most of us still are. But back then everything they said went. Not for James. He did what he’d always wanted to do, and he did it for his own damn self. He seized the day, in the dark of night it slipped from his grasp and he tumbled down trying to recapture its evasive pleasures. He was an actor and a singer. A poet too, a real good one. (I also happen to be a good poet, so I’d know). But he was a good friend and a loyal man, which is more than I can say.
That’s it mostly; that’s James for you. Why would I let go of his death, why would I leave him behind? He doesn’t deserve that.
“Have you ever thought that you don’t deserve this?”
That simple, eh? I don’t deserve this…
Thank you for reading. I hope you like it as much as I do.