I sit down on the chair at the island, dropping my backpack to the floor beside me. My mom has a newspaper in her hand and we chat about how my day was. She looks down at the paper and then back up at me, her bangs falling into her eyes.
“Do you remember JJ?” she asks me.
“Of course I do,” I tell her, wondering why she’d ask me a question like that. He was my first real love. He was the first boy I ever said those terrifying words to. I love you.
She slides the newspaper to me, so that I can read the words upright.
I don’t hear her after that. I don’t know if she says anything else to me. The world gets quiet, a white noise overtaking my ears as I look at the words in black and white. JJ and his brother Wayne are gone. They bought Wayne’s dream car up north and drove it back down. One of them fell asleep at the wheel when they were in Virginia, hitting a tree. I don’t know which one. I still don’t. It doesn’t matter.
I practically fall out of my chair when my mom goes back into the living room to watch her shows. She doesn’t realize how nonchalantly she just told me my first love died. I try to hold it together as I rush up the stairs, slamming my door and not making it another inch before I am on the floor, trying to understand how gravity is still working when my world has just been flipped upside down.
I can’t see anymore. The tears won’t stop. I dial Tiffany’s number, telling her in erratic words that JJ isn’t here anymore. She doesn’t understand me.
“He’s dead,” I choke.
The words don’t stop. I can’t think about anything other than how heavy my body feels. I grab the stuffed animal, a black dog with a big red bow, on my bed and cling to it, trying to smell him. He’d given it to me for Valentine’s Day and it had been over a year so of course his scent is long gone but I do it anyway.
The funeral happens next. Tiffany and I can’t even get a seat it’s so crowded. Everyone is crying. I’ve been crying all week but now, now I can’t. I feel like ice.
Why can’t I cry?
I start bringing drinks to school with booze inside. I sip on them as the teacher talks, trying to dull the ache in my heart. I get too wasted at high school parties and black out. I’m mean to my friends when I’m thinking of you. They don’t understand my pain. How could they? I cry on the floor of a guy’s kitchen, and he stares at me, unsure of how to comfort me as I tell him what happened, why I am this way. He listens. He might be the first person who really listens.
I try to find his grave years later, more than once. Last year, I try and there is no grave marker. There never is. I always expect there to be something, anything, with his name on it, indicating I’m in the right spot. But there isn’t. It’s just a small patch in a big cemetery. I don’t know where Wayne is buried.
The number 7 holds significance now, in ways I could never imagine. Seven was his lucky number. His jersey number was 27. Seven points me in the right direction now, like his way of saying everything is going to be okay. He’s still around.
I wonder if my mom found him. I wonder if she’s thanking him right now for looking out for me. Because I told her too of the magic of 7 and JJ. She knows. I hope she gave him a hug for me.
I miss you, boys.
JJ & Wayne – 11/7/2004 <3