i know it has been awhile. this summer has been a whirlwind of emotion and experimentation, and is starting to wind down. school begins on monday (today is thursday...technically). for the past four years, the start of a new school year has been met with mixed feelings. this year is no different. i would like to tell you the story of kiefer. the boy whose life changed mine. for the better.
kiefer and i met in junior high. it was 8th grade -- the worst year of my life, as per usual for most teenagers. i had just spent months in a state of self-destruction and suicidal depression. my best friends had been dating one another, and when they broke up, they both abandoned me. so. i was lonely. kiefer was a bad boy. you know the type. long hair. knows the names of metal bands. sometimes uses the word "porn" in mixed company. a real hell-raiser. we were in the school play, together. the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. that's right. one of those artsy bad boys. every teenage girl's dream, am i right?
i fell in love with kiefer over the course of the next year. he became my best friend. he became my first love. he became the boy i first kissed. he became a lot of "firsts." and so much more. and it was with him that i spent the most fantastic summer of my life.
i used to sneak into the hallway after my mom had gone to bed, and call kiefer. we'd talk for hours. about everything. about religion (kiefer was the first to introduce me to non-Christian religious thought. wicca. vampirism. buddhism. and more.), politics, ten-year-plans, future children, all the places we would travel together -- once we had the dough to peace out from the happy-valley-hell-hole. some nights were really difficult to get through, and i'd whisper encouraging words with tears streaming down my face while he gave himself a verbal beating for one stupid mistake or another. other nights, he'd tell me all the things he loved about me, and i'd tell him all the things i loved about him. my favorite nights, i'd just lie there and listen to his breathing. i'd stay on the line for an hour after he'd fallen asleep with the phone pressed to his face, and try to sync my respiratory pattern with his. some days, i'd wake up to a poem he'd sent me in an email. other days, he'd come over early before play rehearsal (west side story), and he'd hold me in his arms while we lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling. my favorite days, we'd leave rehearsal early and just go on walks. once, such a walk led to a church parking lot, where kiefer asked me to dance. he put one of his earbuds in my ear, and the other in his. he held me close, and we danced to poison's "every rose has its thorn," followed by buckcherry's "sorry." those songs defined mine and kiefer's relationship. it was beautiful. and painful. the timing was off, and neither one of us had the courage to do anything about it. so, as the summer wound down into fall and we started high school, the dancing and the five-hour phone calls and the leisurely strolls about town all stopped. i still loved him. i'd like to believe he still loved me. but life is complicated, sometimes, and we decide to put a good thing on hold for one reason, or another. our good thing never really picked up again.
the next summer was kiefer and harmony's summer. harmony and i had been friends since the c.s. lewis production of junior high. she was snarky and beautiful and captivating for reasons i cannot explain. she was the one dating kiefer when he died.
on august 24, 2007, kiefer was driving to school and overcorrected just a few blocks away from his house. he drove into a tree, and was killed on impact. his younger brother was in the car, and walked away with a few scratches.
it was the first friday of our junior year of high school. kiefer had been in a darkish place for a long time, and was just pulling through that. he was happy. i was happy for him, although sad and hurt that it was harmony, and not me, that was his partner-in-crime. but they were happy, together. and i was happy for them.
of course, it would've been the perfect place to insert a "happily ever after" into kiefer's story. a superb debater and actor, a brilliant student who was just beginning to slough off his lazy tendencies, an ideal friend, an addicting laugh, a charismatic personality, a loving relationship. maybe it was. a happily ever after, that is. maybe it's better that he died when things were looking up, rather than when his heart was rent in two. but happily ever after or not, kiefer's story ended abruptly, two weeks before his 17th birthday.
i'll skip over some of the chapters. the part about the funeral, and the part where harmony lived with me for awhile, and the part where i sank back into my self-destructive tendencies and suicidal depression.
but not the part where i think about him every day.
some nights, i can't sleep because i'm so engrossed in thinking about the things kiefer would be doing now, five years later. other nights, i wake up with my lungs screaming for air under the weight of his absence. my favorite nights, i write him letters, telling him how much i miss him, and how greatly he has impacted my life. some days, i drive around to our favorite places. other days, i think about how grateful i am to have had kiefer in my life, even for a short time. my favorite days, i close my eyes and sit quietly, and try to remember his laugh. his smile. the smell of his clothes. the smoothness of his skin. the way his whole body shook when he tried to keep a straight face. the way he yelled my name down the hall when he saw me. the security i felt when he'd wrap his arms around me, and hold me as though he never planned on letting go.
during my kiefer summer, my friends and i did an awful lot of watching rent. as in, the movie-musical. we all had characters. kiefer was angel. the theme of "no day but today" that permeates the lyrics of rent has become a symbol of kiefer, for myself and my friends from my kiefer summer.
no day but today.
i will never know if kiefer would've had as profound an impact on my life, if he hadn't died, as he has had in death.
i don't know if kiefer is in some better, heavenly place, singing off-key in a choir of angels.
i do know that, five years later, kiefer remains a mentor. an example of how to love people. how to love life.
some nights, i lie in bed and listen to my own breathing, the way i used to listen to his. a lost lullaby, i wish i could resurrect.
it doesn't have the same calming effect, listening to my own breathing, as it did listening to his. it does make me ponder how i use my breaths. how my breath could stop at any moment, and my life could end.
if i died tomorrow, would i have made as great an impact on the people in my life as kiefer made upon those in his?
i don't know. and i hope we don't have to find out. i plan on living for quite some time. my paranoid, hyperattentive self would like to stick around. i have things to do. places to see. people to meet. stories to share.
like the story of the boy who taught me to see the world with both eyes open. to be quiet, sometimes, and just listen. to hold on to the people who matter to you. to dream big. to love.
there's only now.
there's only here.
give in to love, or live in fear.
no other path.
no other way.
no day but today.
no day but today.
love you, kiefer. miss you.
bye for now.