The Lost Boy

I haven’t thought about you in a long time. The endless nights of driving to nowhere, with the windows down and the music up, the simplicity, the heartbreak, and your ability to make a movie-like-moment out of nothing was left behind on that winding road we drove away from all those years ago.

It was a quiet Sunday morning. Mornings I do not get often. I told myself this was a day I was going to surrender from my ever-racing mind and just be. A proper lazy Sunday at best. It was just past 11am, and I was nestled under my favorite oversized faded black t-shirt with my daughter’s golden hair draped across it as she softly rested her tired head on my shoulder while cartoons hummed in the background. The gentle giggles from both of my daughters filled the room with sweetness as my husband and I quietly sipped our coffee out of our favorite blue and cream mugs, adorned with a his and hers Dachshund and Corgi. “This is what life is about. This is bliss,” I thought. Then my phone buzzed.

It was like that moment in a movie where two people are driving down a beautiful road in slow motion, their smiles beaming amongst the captivating music, and the sun rays glistening down on them while the ocean sparkles in the distance and the trees dance in the wind. But then the music stops, time speeds up, and the crush of the metal takes your breath away as tragedy sets in. The music stopped when my phone buzzed. The tragedy soon followed.

It was a message from an old friend. Someone I have not spoken to in years. My heart began to race as I opened her message. I already knew what it was going to say, but the critical question was, “who?” I frantically scoured her message, skipping over words, as my heart was skipping beats. Each passing moment felt like a lifetime, and the panic began to grow as my eyes bounced between words like a ping pong ball. And then I saw it. The name I was so scared it was going to be, the name I knew I would see one day, and the name that once held a piece of my fragile teenage heart. The giggles from my daughters started to hurt my ears, the smell of my coffee made me nauseous, and the room began to spin. The most magical friend I ever had was dead.

The moments that followed after were a blur. My voice was trembling as I said my husband’s name aloud to deliver the news.  There was a strikingly different tone to my voice than once was just moments before when I innocently mentioned how happy I was that our living room was clean. A tone that pierced the innocence around us. A tone that stopped my husband in his tracks. My mouth felt like a bed of cotton as I tried to speak, my eyes stung as tears began to fall, and my body quivered rhythmically like a lone autumn leaf in the wind. I felt like a stranger looking in, watching myself utter the words to my husband as to what happened. Words I have uttered more than once this year already. Before I could even finish my sentence, the grief consumed me. I cried. I cried a lot.

My tears momentarily dried as I began to struggle to breathe. The air that surrounded me felt as thick as mud and tasted unfamiliar. The ability to inhale and exhale were no longer autonomous. My eyes rapidly darted from one side of the room to the other, in an attempt to find something familiar to focus on so I could calm my body and mind. I was instead greeted with a swirl of blurry images of toys and furniture that suddenly felt foreign to me. I was finally able to settle on the tree gracefully swaying in the wind outside my living room window. I thought how unusual it was for it to be so windy in July. I thought how odd it was that I did not notice the wind until this very moment. Had it been this way all morning? My heart began to calm, the room went into focus, and I could breathe again. The wind gave me strength.

Just as I found my breath, my sweet daughter, oblivious to the catastrophic storm that had just erupted from my phone through my heart, lifted her head from my shoulder and asked if I wanted to do an art project with her. I almost did not understand her question at first, her question was too simple for my paralyzed mind. But then I looked into her twinkling eyes and her innocent smile, and I felt warmth soothe my soul. The words, “of course, honey,” came out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying. And so, we did.

As we decorated our homemade kaleidoscope with various translucent stickers with every shade of the rainbow, my daughter asked me why there were mirrors inside her kaleidoscope. I explained the concept of reflection as simply as I could as her eyes dazzled in amazement through the lens.  Although my mind was performing an exhausting dance between denial and devastation, and my heart was still smoking from the hole burned through it, I continued to place stickers on the kaleidoscope. I had to carry on. I had to accept it. What else could I do?

They say he was sick. They say his heart failed him. And yes, this is true. But his heart had always failed him. His heart had always been too broken for this world. As the days followed, I realized all of the cracks and imperfections made it possible for the magic to seep in. Magic that passes the rest of us by each day without a second glance. And with that, the world as he knew it was an adventure. His life was an adventure. His love was an adventure. Our friendship was an adventure. His memory will be an adventure. And as J.M. Barrie wrote in Peter Pan, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”

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photo: Timna Woollard

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