My first memory of Ryan was on the playground at elementary school. I was a quirky kid, and I couldn’t tell you the why of it, but we got into a fist fight. Hearing stories about myself at that age, I was somewhat deserving. The reason he stuck just so in my mind, was that as he would punch me, he would name the body part. Kidney. Liver… I thought it was cool.
Fast forward a half dozen years or so and we had just graduated high school. The years had forged a bond, and we rolled random missions over the years: first smokes, first drinks, first download, first suicide attempts…
Ryan was a wickedly talented artist. He would draw these little pin head cartoons in english class. Skinny, he was the first kid I knew to have a modem. He listened to music I couldn’t even know existed (nitzer ebb anyone?) and we always hung at his house. His parents worked off hours so there was space there to be youthful.
One night, shortly after graduating high school, he came over to my house. My room had been in the basement for years and we sat around and had an atypical night. We spoke our fears about what the future held, laughed about the previous shared years and our versions of awkwardness, and looked through photographs, of which my house was never in short supply. The next day he was dead.
His parents had been away and left him the car. Having his license was new, and earlier in the day, before coming to my house, he had rear ended a rather nice car. I can’t recall the insurance issue, if there was one, but Ryan seemed to find the problem insurmountable.
That whole evening at my house, he didn’t mention a thing. He was funny, intelligent, easy to smile and faster to laugh. The next night he went to work, having hidden a shotgun in the field by his work. He worked the full shift, lots of our classmates saw him there, seemingly in a upbeat mood, but walking home that night he ended his life.
I thought that I should have been able to hear or see something during our visit. That 16 year old me would have been able to do or say something capable of reviving the part of him already walking in shadow.
A couple of years previous this night, Ryan and I had been at a high school party. We found ourselves beneath the stairs, making complex shapes out of electrical cords. We wrapped them around our necks. We robbed ourselves of breath. All the hormones of that age, and the gradients of who, what and such had pressed us into a particular head space. It was new for me. I thought neither of us were serious in our attempt.
It was hard to know how to shift, so long ago, feeling that way. I am surprised to be writing about this now. But feelings process through presence and the road to being a richer human being wanders. I miss Ryan and our friendship. I don’t know that I would change things though. He needed to follow his path. His journey inspired my own and I wouldn’t be the man that I am today without his contributions; having walked in the shadows helped me find my light, and helps me help others find their own. That says so much, because I love myself, and I am worthy of such love.
Share with your loved ones how much they mean to you. Make certain to share with yourself the same. You are so deserving.