That was the last conversation that we had. I feel as if I’m falling into some sort of liquid silence sometimes when I think about it: it’s like a pool with no lights on and after I hit the water I can’t find my way out. There were eight thousand other ways that I should have responded. He was my best friend. He asked me what I was most afraid of. The truth was that sometimes I’m scared of my own heartbeat. It started when I was a kid. If it was quiet out, like that one sort of silence where the TV and the stereo are off and the dogs aren’t even barking, and then I’d hear my heart but it never sounded like a part of me. It always sounded like someone walking, trudging in boots through deep snow. Sometimes I’m still woken up at night by my own pulse. But that’s not what I told him. Instead I muttered “Clowns” and chuckled. I expected him to do the same. Tell some half-truth of fear because it would be funny but instead he said, “I’m really afraid of the dark but not, like, because I’m afraid of something in the dark like tentacles under the bed or whatever. Instead I’m afraid of the dark itself. I keep thinking things are changing in the dark when I can’t see them, you know? I wake up and a picture frame seems like an inch to the left of where it should be. I’m afraid that one day I’m gonna go to sleep in the dark and wake up in the light with my whole life unrecognizable.” I changed the subject suddenly to Devin Harris and trade rumors. And that was the last conversation that we had. I can picture the way his eyes shifted as I changed the conversation. He looked up at me once and then not again.
I check his Facebook page. No one ever took it down. It’s like a memorial. Except occasionally I’ll get little updates telling me to reconnect with an old friend and his picture will come up. It’s that one of the time we dressed up for Halloween on State Street. I went as a vampire slayer and he went as my watcher. God we are dorks. Shit, god we were dorks. I scroll through his page and I keep expecting him to have some lame new update: “Jason is crazy….Or am I crazy like a fox?” Something that will change my mind about what I have to do; a message saying I don’t have to come and keep him company. All I need is a message saying that he’s not alone out there.
At work I spin around in my chair so much that I make myself dizzy. I stand up and fall over. My boss says I can go home early. He knew what happened a year ago today. I didn’t feel like my apartment and its ceaseless quiet. So I go to my favorite café. An Andrew Bird song is on the stereo and I sing along for a second, we mistake it for closeness, it’s just a case of mitosis, before I catch myself and stop. No one wants to hear my voice. I figure I’ll treat myself. One last sweet taste on my tongue. I order a hot chocolate from the barista. He’s a cute guy who I’ve always wanted to flirt with but I think I lack the genes for that sort of thing. He puts way too much whipped cream on my chocolate and it looks like heavenly clouds. A little melts down the side and onto my fingers. I take a seat at a table near the back. I like to be able to see everyone walking in to the café without anyone seeing me. My heart feels weird for some reason. I feel it beating out of its normal pace and I mimic the beat with my fingertips on the table top. I notice the barista getting ready to leave; his replacement has arrived. The barista looks over at me, smiles, and walks over, “Hey, did you realize you’re tapping Morse code?” I look up in confusion and then down at my fingers. “Really? What am I saying in Morse code?” I tapped out the beat again; matching up to the race of my heart. The barista studies my hands for a second then says, “You’re saying: I’m okay. I’m okay.”