writing from deep down
Kristen Lamb put a follow up post up about her dad and writing what you know. It was another very powerful and emotional story that made me laugh and feel sad. I can only imagine how hard it was to write since today is her father’s birthday (and the anniversary of his death).
But it got me thinking of some posts I’ve made in the past where I have been able to dig deep down into those emotions I usually keep bottled up to protect myself. Because dealing with debilitating depression and bringing up sad, depressing things is not usually the best idea.
I know I’ve wrote about this on LJ in the last year and I’ve written about it here but I’ll tell the story again because it’s one I can get through and brings up good and bad emotions.
When I was in fifth grade I had to start at a new school, St. Joseph’s, because my old school, St. Augustine’s–the one my father went to in the 50s) closed. I had gone to St. Joe’s for kindergarten and 1st grade but it was at St. A’s that I made a few friends. And here I was transferring again. I did make some friends, though. The other outcasts in class but I didn’t care because they were my kind of people.
That year they decided to let the 5th and 6th graders participate in the school dance for the first time. OMG, the class was in an uproar but kids were asking each other to go. I wasn’t planning on it but then a guy dropped a note on my desk from a boy named Eric. It was the typical, “I like you will you go to the dance with me, check yes or no.” He was cute and funny so I checked yes and passed the note back to his friend.
My silly date with Eric isn’t the point of the story. He moved in 6th grade and I never saw him again. But his friend, Jaime (pronounced the English way with a J, not an H), was still part of my little group. In fact I saw hi for the first time really in 6th grade. And my heart did that little pitter-patter thing. I’m sure I blushed. For his part he tended to hang around my desk at lunch (we ate in our classrooms) and he’d tease me but it was never mean.
We found out my little brother, Ryan, and his little brother, Jorge (again pronounced the English way–George), were in the same 4th grade class and had become good friends. We found ourselves hanging out together outside of school. And we both really liked each other. It was the sweet, innocent kind of relationship where holding hands was a huge thing and the thought of kissing probably sent us both into hives (not that I didn’t want him to kiss me). Then in the middle of 6th grade I moved. I continued at St. Joe’s until the end of the year then changed schools again.
Luckily our brothers were still best friends so I saw him quite a bit. I remember we were sitting in my brother’s room playing his Sega when he suddenly reached over, cupped my face and kissed me. He was bright red and gave me a sheepish look. “Now you can’t say I never did it,” he told me and I blushed. We were thirteen at the time and it was the sweetest kiss I’d ever had.
But over the next couple of years things didn’t go well. For one we were just kids and stupid and I would say a lot of mean things to him because I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions I felt for him. Then he got into gangs which scared the shit out of me. My parents moved us out of the old neighborhood to get us away from that stuff. I tried to keep our friendship going because, deep down, all the way to the bones I knew I was in love with him. And it didn’t seem like puppy love or infatuation or whatever else an adult my chalk it up to. I loved him. He was one of my best friends, my first real kiss and when I was with him it was like the world was a million times brighter.
But the gang crap pulled us apart. I also heard he was cheating on me (whether that was true has never been discerned). But his brother was still one of my best friends so I occasionally saw him from a distance when he’d drop his brother off at our house but we stayed away from each other and the ache I felt deep inside was very real. I cried over that boy.
I still remember the last time I saw him. We were about sixteen or so and he dropped his brother off but got out of the car this time. It was an abnormally warm November day in Chicago and I was putting Christmas lights up on our porch. He just kind of hung there trying for awkward conversation. It felt… familiar and I knew the red on my face wasn’t from the slight chill in the air.
We played basketball in the alley with our brothers having the time of our lives until the guy that lived behind us told us to knock it off. Jaime didn’t want to leave so we sat on a lounge chair in the backyard, shivering like idiots and just talking about stuff–what was happening with each of us, school, memories. My mom came out and told us to get inside and gave us permission to be in my basement bedroom alone!
Nothing happened except I sat in his lap and he held my hand and confessed how much he liked me and how much he missed me and we agreed we’d both been stupid. It was amazing. I think my heart was about to beat out of my chest at how much I loved that guy. I think I might have even mumbled that to him. Then it was time for him to go. He was at the back door, kind of hesitating to leave as we laughed about some memory or something. He took two steps away and I blurted out, “what, no good-bye kiss.” I could NOT believe I had just said that and was glad it was dark because I was sure I was bright red.
Jaime paused, gave me a funny look then shook his head. I felt like an idiot. For about 2 seconds and then he cleared the space between us in one long stride and his hands were cupping my face and he was kissing me. It was our first “real” kiss. And I think my heart stopped. It was the sweetest, purest kiss I ever had. There were no expectations behind it, just a lot of emotions neither of us were able to understand or explain. I could feel the tears in my eyes. Finally he pulled away and just stared at me for what seemed like forever. Then he started walking away. He stopped and looked back with a goofy grin and I’m sure it took every ounce of will power for him to leave my yard that night. For my part I went back to my room and collapsed, my legs unable to support me and trembling all over (yeah it was that good).
Unfortunately Jaime and later his brother got involved in gangs and me, my brother and our friend (Jorge’s girlfriend) cut all ties because we didn’t want that in our lives. It hurt so much to say good-bye to both of them. I was absolutely in love with Jaime and Jorge was like my second little brother.
Years passed and the last I’d heard about Jaime was when he visited my house while I was off at college and talked to my mom. He’d cleaned up his act–no drugs, no gangs–he had a good job and just wanted to know how to get in touch with me. I nearly died of a heart attack right then even though I had a boyfriend. I just wanted to see Jaime so bad. I have this theory that first love is forever. You might not end up together but that first person that captures your heart will always mean something special to you.
He never did call me and I eventually got over it. Years passed, I got married and had kids but I never stopped thinking about, or loving, that boy that passed me a note from another guy when we were eleven. Then in 2008, out of the blue I get a message from Jorge on Facebook. I nearly fell off my chair. My heart felt like it might burst from my chest. He told me how he got himself cleaned up and was married and had a good life. All I wanted to do was find out about his brother. And finally I did.
Jaime was dead. Not from drugs or gang violence. But from an aneurysm. He died in 2001, not even a year after my mother died of a stroke. I just sat there rereading his words over and over, tears cascading down my cheeks, my whole body numb. I was sure I entered some alternate, horrible reality where nothing was right. I could barely type back to Jorge who told me how it was his brother that got him out of the gangs and kicked his ass until he became a better man.
Jaime was an amazing guy who died way too young. He was just 23, apparently had a wife and was read to start a family. I had always thought one day I would find him on Facebook and we chat and share all those memories and remember how stupid and silly we were as kids. And I’d tell him how much I loved him and still cared for him.
I think that’s what hit me the hardest when Jorge told me he was gone–I never got to say good bye. I never got to tell him things I should had years before. All the emotions I had bottled up after my mom died were bubbling up and I cried so hard (into my pillow because how did I explain to my husband that I was crying over a boy I was in love with in high school?).
The last time I ever spoke to Jaime we were sixteen and he gave me that kiss that lighted a fire in me. I never saw him again. It’s been twenty years now and I can still remember the feel of his cold, chapped lips on mine and the softness of his hands on my face and the heat radiating between us. And the desperate want gurgling up from my stomach–for him to not leave, to not stop kissing me, to tell me he loved me. I don’t remember if ever said those words but Jorge told me that once Jaime had confessed that I was the biggest thing he screwed up in his life. He had something great with me and threw it all away.
Jorge told me he really cared about me, that he loved me. He told Jorge that several times and wanted me to know that. By that point I could barely read the words because tears were streaming down my face. I refused to wipe them away. Even though it had been seven years since his death when I found out I mourned him as if it were just that day it happened. It hurt so much I felt my insides were going to crush from the weight of it.
And now, five years later, when I think about that day Jorge told me, and the kiss Jaime gave me and how much he meant to me it still hurts. And the tears well up and wonder how I’ve lasted so many years without hearing his gruff voice or seeing him blush whenever I was close. I miss him to this very day. Sometimes I think I mourned his death more than my own mothers (that’s a story for another day–I’m already trying to hold back the torrent of tears threatening).
And, honestly, after rereading this I don’t think I gave it justice. My other versions, especially when I first found out are much more emotional and honest, I think. I find it easy to write about him, though. He meant so much to me and I will never forget him.