She knew me when I was different. She knew me when I believed in complete unfettered love. I believed in the kind of love that makes an introvert extroverted. The kind of love where you spend hours scribbling down romantic poems during a college lecture, and the kind of love that moves you to read said love poem in front of a room full of adults—just because she’s there and because you’re a romantic. I was a romantic and that’s when Kelly knew me.
The last time I saw her was last night. We were swimming. Well, she was swimming and I was doing something of the sort. I have never been known to be a decent swimmer, so I was surprised to find myself in basketball shorts and head deep in water.
When it was time to go our separate ways, I told her about a trip I was planning to Italy. “I would love to go,” she told me as she wrapped a towel around her shoulders. We both knew the truth, but there was only one of us that acknowledged what was going on.
“You know you can’t come with me, Kelly.”
“Of course I can” she said.
I started to cry. “Why did you do it?”
“As adults we make our own decisions, and that’s the right of every adult. Sometimes our choices are made when we are not healthy, but it’s still a choice. It’s still the adult’s decision to make.”
“Why didn’t you call me? “I could have saved you.” I do not remember her response, but I know the look she gave me. The skin around the corners of her lips softened. She tilted her neck, her eyebrows raised and she smiled.
“It wasn’t up to you to save me. It wasn’t up to anyone.”
It was at this moment Kelly and I came to a truce with the circumstances of her suicide and my need to know answers. When I found out she died, I intellectualized it. I have a unique talent for making sense out of things that shouldn’t be made to make sense. I can feel something and before the feeling manifest itself physically, I can stop it, and when I received the news that Kelly died, I just thought. I didn’t even allow myself the healing of a decent cry and when I did, I cried like a boy. But as a dreamed this dream, I was emotionally unchained. As if my rational brain had to be turned off to allow myself to not be able to make sense of what was happening, so I could feel.
“I suppose you can come with me to Italy,” I said.
“Of course I can. Just because I can’t be there, doesn’t mean I’m not there.” She smiled, as she always did, with her eyes and a row full of perfect teeth. I turned around, walked away and opened my eyes.
I was crying when I woke up, but my chest was light and it felt as if my heart was beating in a room made of pillows.
When I think about the love and loss I have suffered in the last couple years of my life, I realize that I cope with a rational mind. Perhaps, it’s easier to deal with love and loss when you can explain it. But sometimes, love can find a way to confuse us just enough to where we have to seek to understand it, and perhaps, at least in my case, hold on to it.
Maybe the pressure of a new job in a new country led my brain to making up this imaginary Kelly, and this imaginary situation. Maybe I had a relapse with my old romantic self and all of what I felt last night was made up. Maybe it was, but I am still naïve and romantic enough to know this: whether or not it’s all in my mind doesn’t make it feel any less real.