e gave me his number and I sent him a message saying that I had to work at noon, would he like to come over for breakfast. At 11:45 I saw a gigantic figure on a tiny child’s bicycle pedaling like a madman. He didn’t know I could see him through my front windows, and I never told him.
He didn’t stop the bike, just flung himself from it and let it careen into my yard. I watched him take a moment to catch his breath and dry the sweat from his face before knocking. It was summer. “Sorry,” he said. He’d been sleeping until three minutes before, he said, and I believed him. He moved with urgency, and I loved him for that.
I loved him because the night he met me he Googled me, and read the hundreds of pages of articles and (insipid) blog posts I’d published online.
I loved him because he stayed up all night after our first date and made me a mixed CD which he colored with markers and crayons.
I loved him when he told me he understood what Brian Wilson was about, that he felt like he understood him. We used to lie on his bed in the afternoon heat and listen to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. “Sometimes I feel very sad. Sometimes I feel very sad. Sometimes I feel very sad. I guess I just wasn’t meant for these times,” sang Brian Wilson.
I loved him because he danced with me in his living room in front of all of his bros. I think they tried not to stare. But in his intense moments you couldn’t not stare. When he wanted something badly or felt something strongly, his energy emanated and filled space.
I loved him because a hug wasn’t enough. He had to hug me, then squeeze me, then grunt, and hug me higher and lower and then scrunch his face up and lift me up a little. I felt like a doll in his arms. Sometimes I’d have to brace myself through a hug. I’d hear my spine crack and pop. He never understood how strong he was.
I loved him because after our second date he called me and asked me to come over. He wanted to introduce me to someone. When I arrived at his house, his grandparents were pulling into the drive. He told me how special they were to him and he told them how special I was to him.
But no matter how many times I told him, I could never make him understand how special he was to me.
I loved him because he made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world that summer. When I walked into a room with him, I was proud to be his.
I went down to the Charles River after his death, to a spot where we’d brought a blanket the afternoon after he moved me to Cambridge. I wanted to touch the earth that I knew he’d touched and inhabit a spot where I knew he’d been smiling. I looked for him there and thought I could feel him in the wind. But it wasn’t our place; it was just a place where we’d been.
So I rented a car and drove to Acadia National Park. When the fire died and the full moon was high, I walked out to a bluff and watched it light up the Atlantic. I was looking for him where I’d found him the first time, under the night sky. I talked to him there, aloud, no longer under the stars with him, but looking up at them and him together, as he’s become a part of my sky. I looked up at him and talked to him for hours. I laughed and sobbed and reminisced and yelled.
More than anything else, I asked for his forgiveness. I prayed for forgiveness. I told him how sorry I was, how ignorant, how prideful. I told him how beautiful he was. How beautiful he made this Earth and how beautiful he still makes it, not only as a memory, but also as a part of it now.
When his brother called me to say he was gone, I also got a text message. In shock but still functioning, I saw the message was from my brother. He had just heard his first child’s heartbeat. The text message was a recording of that heartbeat.
When I got the news, I was teaching “The Divine Comedy.” In my lesson plan, I had reached the point in which Dante looks down at the Earth. He sees how base it is, how small, but above him everything is immense. “Lift therefore your gaze to the high wheels with me, reader, straight to that place where the one and the other motion strike each other, and there begin to marvel…”