I was looking up at the sky today, and this, like, strange emotion passed over me. Kinda like a blanket thrown over my head, running from my head to my toes. It was very sudden, and as I stared up at the cloudless, clear blue sky I grew teary. One thought passed through my mind:
It’s weird to look up in the sky and know you’re somewhere beyond it.
Two and some-sort-of-time-length years ago, I went on tumblr (a social network, for my aunt who reads these) like I did every day back then. I scrolled through photos of boys, poems, music, the works. It seemed like it would be a normal day, until a message popped up in my inbox that I hadn’t been expecting. It was one from the user I had followed that morning, someone who liked twenty one pilots and was named Daniel. His message thanked me for following him, and naturally I replied because I was a lonely little ghost and he looked pretty cute in that profile picture. To my complete surprise, he kept the conversation going. It got to the point where I woke up expecting to have a message from him. Time passed, and we started Skyping each other, and I think his laugh when he saw my face after I discovered he was British is still to this day one of my favorite sounds in the world. He lived in Britain! How perfect is that for someone obsessed with all things BBC? He had a buzzed head, like someone who had just enlisted in the army and wanted to get a head start on preparations. He was really skinny, too, and I remember thinking he had very bright eyes. Back then, I really didn’t have any great friends. My now-best friend Sean and I had only just started communicating, and my lovely Ashley was going through a lot of stuff she didn’t want me to be a part of. I was pretty much alone, and so of course I grew attached to Daniel, the boy who cared about me and stayed up late so that he could call me before school (“show those punks up, Fi, they don’t know what they’re missing”). It wasn’t long before I was calling him my best friend, not much longer after that before I called him my crush.
I’ve been told by the people I’ve relayed our story to that it’s tragic and beautiful (cue Taylor Swift song), that it was adorable and something that should be published in a book. When I think back on it, though, that we be such a boring book. Sure, I wouldn’t trade a moment with him for the world, and the whole forbidden-to-hold-hands-thanks-to-state-lines-and-oceans thing is sad, but other than that we did normal people things, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read that. I would come home from school and we would watch Doctor Who together through Skype, or just keep each other company by setting our cameras up and doing schoolwork. For two kids that lived worlds apart from one another, I talked more to him than anyone else I knew in my town. We talked about what would happen if we ever got to meet each other for real, little corny stuff (like those run and hug ordeals that’s in all the movies? yeah, that was our idea dream). We weren’t Bella and Edward, there was no driven plotline. His mother called us an old married couple, just doing normal everyday stuff with each other. I didn’t even find out he had cancer until it got really bad.
He had stopped the chemo not long before we started talking, which is why he had his hair. He didn’t want to talk too much about it with me, and I took offense to this at first (he calls me his best mate, for Pete’s sake! this is definitely something I should get to hear about) until he told me his reasoning.
“You’re like my one constant normal thing in my life,” he told me somberly as he sat on the sofa in his living room, iPad propped up in his lap as he faced me through the screen with tired eyes and a black stocking cap on his head. Always so close, always too far. “You don’t look at me and think, oh that’s Daniel, the sick kid. You don’t. And I love that, I love having that. I love being just Daniel to you, someone that you’re kind to for no other reason than for my personality.”
And how could I deny him that? So I stopped asking questions. Around Christmas time, though, when he told me that he only had months left, I started to panic. How would I know he was gone? I mean, obviously I would get the gist after months of silence, but what kind of closure would that be? So he assured me that he’d left the information to his social media accounts for his parents so they could log on and inform me. It’s all so morbid, but it put my heart at ease.
I think that’s still a big thing that sticks with me. I was the one in a constant state of insanity over the whole ordeal, not Daniel. He was content that there was small group of people who would love him and remember him, and that was enough. “It’s a pretty good way to go, if you ask me.” I’ll always admire him for that, because God knows I wouldn’t be the same way.
So, just a little fact: if you think that long-distance relationships are hard, try having one where half of the relationship is literally dying. We’d be Skyping, and I’d look over and see he’d fallen asleep from how worn out he was. Our episodes of Doctor Who had to be watched with subtitles because his headaches were too bad for sound. Some days he wouldn’t answer, and those days of me in school were the WORST. There’s a lot of time in class for my mind to fester. Because with a situation like that, a no-call gets a thought nagging in the back of your brain: this is it. He’s gone.
I almost never let myself cry in front of him. He didn’t need that, he had enough to deal with and I knew that it would make him feel guilty for causing me pain. There was one time, though, when I couldn’t control it. It was Valentine’s Day during my sophomore year, and he was on the phone talking to me. He hadn’t done anything. He’d lounged around the house all day, and I just started thinking and thinking. This was his last Valentine’s Day ever and he wasn’t going out. He would NEVER go on a Valentine date. Not only that, but he’d never drove. He’d never gotten completely trashed with his friends after a girl broke his heart.
And he never would. It was then that it really hit me that my Daniel would soon no longer exist. Can you really blame me for crying? It just wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that I was fifteen and dealing with the boy I love wasting away while other girls at my school were going on dates with theirs, and it wasn’t fair that a sixteen-year-old boy had to have the sad look of knowing he wouldn’t be seeing me for much longer in his eyes.
He died in April of last year. I didn’t find out until May, when his sister was logging into his tumblr to take it down. They had all forgotten in the midst of the chaos to tell me (nice, right? but I can’t really blame them). Somewhere deep down, I already knew. We hadn’t talked in a month, there was no way that if he was alive he wouldn’t have found a way to contact me. But hearing it confirmed was devastating. I guess when you love someone your mind will make up the most ridiculous of excuses to convince you that they’re okay. It was such a blunt message, too. At least, it sounded blunt to me. I guess it was just hard to see the end of your best friend’s story in one single paragraph. I didn’t get to look at it for long, because soon his entire profile was deleted. I hadn’t been expecting that. Beep beep boop, and he was gone. Deleted.
This whole thing made junior year hell. Sean and I grew kind of distant for a while because I thought I was bothering him, and I felt really alone again. I hated my birthday this year, because I had grown older while he would always remain stuck at sixteen. Since his birthday was 16 June, he didn’t make it to seventeen, and I was seventeen now, and he should’ve been too but he wasn’t. And I missed him so, so much. I hadn’t told hardly anyone about him, even while he was alive (unless I was talking to one of my friends and gushing about this joke he told me or how I loved his smile), because I was terrified my mom would get super over-protective and forbid me from speaking to him solely because he lived in another country, so I had to cry in my room because no one understood. It was nothing short of hell. Sometimes going to see my grandma was even hard, because I’d see older men and remind myself that Daniel would never get to experience that.
A lot of time, when I think of him, I’m constantly riddled by a million of those pesky what ifs. What would have happened, if he wasn’t sick? If he hadn’t died? Would we stop talking eventually, or would we be a cute romantic movie couple that finally got our run and hug in the airport some day? (I think about that sometimes. I like to imagine what it would have been like when I’m sad. I like to imagine what his little arms would have felt like around me, and how he would’ve laughed while I undoubtedly would’ve cried. It’s a nice image.) And, you know, even if I got the what if that ended with us never speaking to each other again I still would have chosen it over the one we did get in reality. Anything would have been better than him having to die.
It’s true what they say, it gets better with time. When he first passed, I talked to his “ghost” all the time. When I got my driver’s license, I went on drives alone all the time because I liked to pretend he was in the passenger seat with me, and we’d listen to music and I’d laugh like he was really there. I knew that it probably wasn’t healthy, but it was the only way I could cope. That has stopped, though I will admit I did it when the new twenty one pilots album came out. I went on a drive and played it for the first time, and “we” discussed what we thought. I even got two coffees from Starbucks. Sometimes it feels good to induldge in your insanity. I wrote a story that I posted on Wattpad called Worlds Apart that’s kind of like my fantasy of all that could have been. When the story was over, I wrote this long note about Daniel and what had happened, and I was overwhelmed by the response! I found people who related, who had lost someone to cancer. Those people helped me so much! And of course I have Sean and Amber and Ashley now, all who havebeen vital roles in my healing process.
But anyway, back to the blanket and sky thing from earlier. I don’t get really super emotional about him unless it’s an anniversary of something between us, but looking up at that sky… I don’t know, it’s super cheesy, but I felt like he could see me too, or at least knew I was looking. I thought about something I hadn’t before: what his final moments had been like. Was he scared? Or was he in too much pain to feel fear? Or was it just peaceful? What was he thinking about? There is this song by Sarah Bareilles called The Light that brought me a lot of comfort, but for all his talk about being content with his fate I bet he was at least a little scared. And it almost felt like he was there telling me that even though life was really hard right now, I would get through it. If he could go through what he did, I could do this, and I better be damn graeful for every moment of life. So I went downstairs and ate something, hugged my mom, and smiled.
I’m not as angry about the whole thing anymore. I’ve moved from screaming about how unfair it was to talking about how grateful I am that I got to know him at all. It is still weird to know he’s not here anymore, but I just know that when my time comes and I see him again, we’re going to do that run and hug. And it’s going to be wonderful.
This is going to be my last post on this blog. My new blog is called this: sofiaspillari.wordpress.com
Thanks for giving this one the love you did.