It's a warm 72 degrees in the room as I take a slow sip of the sweet, red Moscato. Music is playing softly in the background and I hear the familiar chords of a song by Miranda Lambert; I am instantly transported back to that January day when the wind bit like a rabid dog and no amount of thick scarves and wool coats could keep the air from having its way with my skin.
I was fifteen then; I am twenty-four now. He was fifteen that day; he would be twenty-five now if those train tracks hadn't ripped the rubber from the tires, hadn't cracked the windows and the flawless facade of un-aged skin.
The sheriff said all they could smell on his breath was a Coke. I remember feeling relieved that he hadn't been drinking . . . that somehow made the loss of him a fraction less unbearable. He knew the taste of alcohol at that ripe, young age; I was still figuring out how to exist in my skin sober and had not yet dipped my tongue into the acquired taste that was Bud Light.
At twenty-four I know the tastes of alcohol, I enjoy a beer, or three, but the wine always makes me remember. The wine always makes me wonder. What would he be doing now? Would he be married? A father? Incarcerated? No matter because he would be here, he would be breathing and real and near. Certainly, he would be loved.
I remember hearing "I Can Only Imagine" as they carried him out; I remember hearing the sobs of his mother, of his sister, of the tickling sensation the tears rolling down my face made. There was nothing to giggle about then. I find myself staring stoically at this screen right now; there is no giggling, still.
At twenty-four I can look back on that day, on the days to follow and know, without a doubt, that there isn't a memory at my grandparents' home that doesn't include him. I know, without a doubt, that I will never see the number 40 or hear "Duffy" without hearing his laugh, seeing his eyes smiling.
It's a warm 72 degrees in the room as I take a slow sip of the sweet, red Moscato. The familiar song comes to a close and I let the lines reiterate inside my head: But you went away, how dare you? I miss you.
At twenty-four I continue to be floored by the way a memory can creep in and grasp my heart with sharp clawed fingers. Relationships end, friendships flourish, legends leave behind a legacy . . . and still that void doesn't fill . . . and still I'm daring you to stay . . . and still . . .