I remember the first time I met him. I said hello, he said hello and that was it. I was 15, he was 16.
I remember the first time we talked. He asked me what the homework for geometry was, and it ended up as a discussion on whether we should be allowed to chew gum in class.
I remember the first time he sat with me at lunch. He was nervous, I was nervous. We sat fidgeting for a while, the occasional awkward exchange of words between us as it was only the 3rd time we'd talked since we met.
I remember the first time we talked without any anxiety. I had invited him to my house and everything went smoothly from there. We talked about music, cars, girls, guys, and anything you could think of.
I remember the first time we went to dinner. We went to Taco Bell. Not so romantic, but it was a high school first date between two guys who didn't even know if they were gay or not. His smile made up for the odd choice of location.
I remember the first time we kissed. We were outside my house after our 5th date to another fast food joint. It was soft and short, but it was there. He apologized afterward, but I told him it was okay, because if I didn't want it why would we have gone out in the first place?
I remember the first time we made love. It wasn't un-thought about or dirty or anything like that. It was slow and caring. We were both inexperienced, so we made sure not to make it too painful for either of us. He was 17, I was 16.
I remember the time he took me out to dinner at a real restaurant. It was a Friday. We'd gone to a movie before it, for most of which I was either leaning on his shoulder, or pressing my lips against his. We sat in the back of the restaurant and talked about what we would do after school was over. He said he would go to Art College and get a good job to save money. He wouldn't tell me what he was saving for.
I remember the day we graduated from high school. He kissed me on the lips for a whole 20 seconds in front of our whole school, my mom, and his folks. Then he smiled that wonderful awkward smile and picked me up in a giant bear hug.
I remember the look on his parents' face when they found us kissing in the hallway after the ceremony. They looked a little less disappointed than I expected. They walked the other way and let us alone.
I remember the words he whispered to me in the car on the way back to his place, "As soon as we get money, we'll go buy a house; just you and me... and we'll live there together forever."
I remember the morning we sat outside on a park bench. He let me curl up close to him while he sketched the birds eating breadcrumbs. He leaned over every few minutes to kiss my hair or pull the jacket over me more to make sure I wasn't freezing.
I remember the day we moved into the house. He took me inside and brought me to the upstairs bedroom. There was a puppy sleeping on the carpet. He said I could name her. I asked if I could name it Elena. He kissed me and told me I was the best thing that ever happened to him. I guess that was a yes. He was 20 and I was 19.
I remember the day he gave me the ring. It was Christmas at his parents' house. We were sitting outside on the porch. It was snowing. I was snuggled up against his chest listening to his parents talk about some barely interesting subject or the other. He pulled it out of his pocket and slipped it on my ring finger without me noticing. He asked, "Will you stay with me forever?" I told him I would and he kissed me like he always did, brushing the hair out of my eyes. His parents actually looked happy.
I remember the night he told me he had cancer. He sat me down on the edge of the bed we'd shared and told me in the calm voice he'd always speak in when he had bad news. He told me they didn't catch it quick enough and he didn't know how long he had left. He let me cry into his chest until morning, and even then I wouldn't stop. I was 27. He was only 28.
I remember the day after he told me. We went to his parents to tell them the news. They cried, but not as much as me. It made me break down again. No one could pry me off him for the rest of the visit, and no one tried either.
I remember the day he got so weak they made him stay in the hospital. He refused treatment, knowing it wouldn't help, so he didn't lose his hair, but his appetite disappeared and he only went out in a wheelchair to let me push him around to look out the bay windows on the other side of the building. I wouldn't leave his side. His parents also spent most of their time with him, but not as much as me. I was always right there next to him.
I remember the last week when his kisses were extra soft and gentle. How he could barely lift his head to look at me. He looked to vulnerable, so miserable, and so innocent. I knew all he wanted was to go back to our house and be able to paint again, to be able to go out in the parks like we used to where he'd lift me up onto his back and carry me around like a little kid.
I remember the day he died. He looked at me, and I knew by his eyes. He told me he loved me and would never leave me no matter where he was supposed to go. He took my hand and told me not to be afraid, but I was. I was scared to live without him.
I remember his last words. He said, "You'd better not follow me any time soon." And that was it. He closed his eyes, and he was gone. He was only 28.
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