His name was Joey, I met him at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. We shared English and World History together, and I noticed him noticing me. Every time I looked at him he was looking at me. He was cute in that sloppy clothes, not-trying-too-hard skater boy look circa 1992. It was early September and he often wore shorts and I had little daydreams about reaching over and running my hand over his leg. He was adorable.
I wondered if he was ever going to talk to me. Finally, as boys do in high school, he passed me a note. He had very small and perfect handwriting. It looked almost typed, the letters were that perfectly written. The exact wording of the note escapes me now, but I know that what it said was unlike anything a boy had ever written me. It was a little poem describing my eyes, my smile, and how much he wanted to know me. In that moment I fell in love. I fell in love the way you do when you are 16, that is.
We were inseparable for awhile. The letters he would write me filled me with a longing that at 16 I didn't fully understand. I floated around on a little cloud, never had I felt so special, so beautiful. If he thought I was then maybe he was right! I adored him.
The exact reason escapes me, but he broke-up with me. I was shattered. He began to change in small ways, and I noticed as we had classes together and I lived for the time that we would be in the same room together. He began to hang out with a different crowd, and he looked like he wasn't taking care of himself, wearing the same clothes to school and often not showing for class. I couldn't understand what was happening.
I held a torch for him all through that school year. We had some mutual friends and often hung out on the weekends in the same group. He started dating someone else and I privately despised her. I never gave up hope that he would remember whatever it was he saw in me and want me back. I tried to act nonchalauntly in front of our crowd but inside I was as in love as any 16 year old girl ever was.
The summer of our 10th grade year he was found dead in his bedroom at his father's house. He took some pills and left a note. He was found by one of our friends who came to his house and didn't understand why he wouldn't answer the door. He peeked through his bedroom window and saw him there, and called the police knowing something was very wrong.
His death was a tremendous shock to me. It was incredibly hard for me to deal with at that age, especially considering the deep feelings I had for him. I was devastated.
Mostly at his funeral all I could think about was how much he would hate how he was dressed, in a three piece suit with shiny black shoes, and so much makeup plastered on to cover his acne that he looked like a doll. It was everything that he was not.
Oh, his mother. His poor, poor mother. Every time I ever went to visit his grave his mother was there. Once, her face so sun burnt that she must have been sitting there for hours. Now a mother myself, my heart aches for this woman, losing her beloved and only son.
I haven't been back to Charleston for 13 years, but if I ever do I know I'll go visit him. I still think of him, and now and again he'll pop up in my dream, always wearing those purple baggy skater pants. I've dreamed of him a number of times over the last 15 years, and I always come away from the dream feeling like I had a visit with him.
I don't believe he wanted to die. I really don't. I think it was a cry for help but I don't think things played out how he thought they would at the time. I can't imagine he really intended to end his life. However, it doesn't matter much. He is gone all the same.
He was a wonderful person. So smart, so deep for a boy of 16. I think of him, and I wonder who he would be today. Now and again I'll pull out my box where folded inside are every letter he ever wrote me. To this day, the only love letters I've ever received. When I read them today, they still touch me.
His mother once told me that she didn't want him to be forgotten. She had a fear that he would be. Colleen, wherever you are today, know that he has not been forgotten. He never will be.