Welcome Noah, We Missed You


It made sense when I thought about it. I thought: if you love this girl then she deserves to know the truth about you because she is a girl that lives off the truth and keeping it from her is like asking her not to live. So you see that day, when we lay on the floorboards of our new tree house, months later when spring was awakening the earth and the smell of dew and moss laced every breath we took, I’d already planned to tell you well before you asked me.

You were holding my hand, staring up at the sky through the slates in the wooden roof, and you cleared your throat before saying, “Noah.” And I looked at you, turning my head, resting my cheek against the floor. “You know you’re my best friend, right?” I had nodded. “And you can tell me anything? You know that right?”

I think back to months before when we were sitting on the floor of your room, and the heat was blasting and you were telling me all about myself, and you had no idea why I was sad. I said to you, “Was.” And you looked at me, confused. “Was sad,” I had clarified. “I’m not sad anymore.” But I would be, I thought. If I wasn’t with you.

I thought about weeks before when I was sitting down for dinner with my parents how my mom laughed as she recalled a memory and my dad chuckled and then a silence fell before one of them said, “Noah, we should probably talk about you and Sawyer.” And I felt everything in me freeze because I thought they were working to saying something that would prohibit me from being with you. I tried my hardest to remain calm but my wrists pulsed and I wanted to pull my sleeves but I knew it was improper. “What about me and Sawyer?”

“Well,” my mom said slowly, thinking. “You and Sawyer are more than friends, right?”

I nodded my head. “We’re best friends.”

My parents looked at each other like I was missing something. “But you’re closer than best friends, right?” my father asked and there was a hint of smile on his face like this was comical. “I’m afraid I’m not following,” I had said honestly.

My mom took a heavy breath. “Noah, we want to talk to you about safe sex.”

This was where things took a horrific, because yes, you and I had kissed in December, and sometimes when things were quiet, and there wasn’t a lot of light in the room, and we were falling asleep on our textbooks you’d look at me and there’d be an understanding and we’d kiss until my heart couldn’t withstand the beating and we lost each others breaths. But that was all it was. We didn’t kiss as a prelude to sex; we kissed as a promise to each other when our words wouldn’t do enough.

I couldn’t have explained this to my parents though. From their perspective, they saw two teenagers with hormones that bounced off the walls. I thought about that moment as we lay there in our tree house. It was warm outside, but my arms were cool, trapped under the sleeves of my shirt. You sat up and said, “I don’t want to push you to tell me something you’re not ready to.” And I had understood, sitting up as well, turning to face you. Our hands had detached.

I said, “I want to tell you. But I don’t want it to make anything weird.” And you grasped my face, kissing me as you said, “It won’t, it won’t.” So I pulled up the sleeves of my sweater slowly as I said, “I was very sad and it was a feeling that I didn’t know how to live with.” You didn’t say anything, just looked at my wrist, these long scars running up my forearms.

“It’s okay,” you whispered. “It’s okay to be sad.” You placed your hand over my scar and it was all it was. Just a simple touch, a space where your warmth and my not-warmth met. We sat in silence, in a peace neither one of us was willing to break. If I could live a thousand moments, I thought, each would be this one. But you didn’t stop there. You said, “Noah, I love you really a lot,” and you were crying.

“Does it make you sad?” I asked. “To love me?” And you shook your head. “But you’re crying.”

You smiled, still crying, and responded, “I think that there should be a physical representation for happiness like there is for sadness.” You said that and your words made sense, because tears were for sadness but was for happiness? And you kissed me, gently, pulling yourself to me. You said, “Is this okay?” And I nodded as you pulled my sweater off, as you helped me take your shirt off, as we laid down together in none of our clothes. But we didn’t have sex. We just lay together. It was all of the closeness with none of the hurt. We were safe, we were okay.

I like to think that this was the last time I saw you. I like to think of this as our last moments together. Even though we went to school the next day together, and we had four classes together, and then you raised your hand and asked to go to bathroom. I didn’t even think anything. I was busy working a math equation, and you got up, and I might’ve glanced at you, I don’t even know. You walked it and that was our goodbye. You walking out and me doing math. You deserved a better goodbye.

It was the class before lunch why did she even let you go? If she was any other teacher she would have said, “You can wait until lunch.” But she didn’t and you left and everything became a sudden and uneasy blur. Our Principal said over the loudspeaker, “Today is a red schedule.” I can’t remember all the details of that day. I’ve done a good job of forgetting but its hard to forget a feeling. I remember the panic of knowing that there was an active shooter in the building. I remember the fear I felt, not for me, but for you.

But most of all, I remember the pain of seeing your body with a bullet in your forehead.