“In order to love who you are you can’t hate the experiences that shaped you.”
That second friend request from 2009 is still sitting there in my Facebook notifications. You sent it after I messaged to ask why you’d disappeared from my friends list. I mean, it seemed odd that you would’ve deleted me, considering it was you who reached out to me when the first friend request came in 2007. Do you remember what you said to me then, in ’07? “It took me a while to find you on here because I couldn’t remember your last name.” Always the charmer, you were… Part of me chalked that comment up to a bruised ego after I declined to receive a visit from you in ’03. But part of me thought maybe it was true. Maybe I was that inconsequential to you.
Anyway, back to ’09. You told me you had deleted your old page but that you’d send me another friend request. Which you did. And there it’s been ever since. Pending. You never asked me how I even noticed your name was gone from my friends list. Or maybe you suspected why. Either way, I’ll own it. I still look you up from time to time. I wanted to know that you were happy, thriving, growing up. I’d seen that you got married—holy damn, I thought THAT day would never come! I’d seen pictures of friends and cars and your sister—all grown up! And eventually talks of a new girl who became a new wife…more cars and more friends and a little sports. And then October 2017 came around.
Earlier this month, I clicked on that pending friend request to visit your Facebook profile and saw posts from August about the fact that you were missing. A GoFundMe page set up by friends. An update about you turning up in an ICU in New York. Far from home. Critical. Alone. My sister reached out to your family and learned about your prognosis. When she first started updating me on what your family told her, I could tell she was dancing around the harsh reality. I said, “It’s okay, Bree. I’m not attached to him like that anymore. You can tell me.” So she did. And my heart broke for you, for your family. You’re too young to be where you were. You had so much life ahead of you…so much more to experience. I sent a friend request to your sister and messaged her to tell her I was thinking about all of you. Taylor said she’d pass along the message. I’m not sure if she did. Or you heard it. Or if it mattered. But I was….I still am.
Your mom recently posted to your Facebook page a plea for friends of yours to visit you. She wrote, “He believes he has been forgotten….He needs to know he is loved.” But I didn’t visit. I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t want to—because I did. And not because doing so would’ve caused a ripple in my household—though it would have. I didn’t visit because I was afraid. I was afraid of walking into that hospital room and you not remembering me or caring that I was there. I was afraid to find out that maybe I wasn’t as an important piece of your history as you were of mine. And that would’ve shattered me. Maybe not visiting was selfish of me. But let me make it abundantly clear. You were not forgotten. And you were loved, fiercely.
I’ve been in this weird place since finding out your condition. I’m a very happily married woman, most days at least…haha! And it’s been, what? Seventeen years since we last hugged goodbye. But you will always be my first love and a huge part of my past. So I’ve been walking in this bizarre and lonely reality for a month now where my heart is aching and I feel like I can’t talk about it. Because the person I want to talk to most is Chris—my best friend, my husband. And he’s held onto that night in the parking lot on your last visit to town. Do you remember? He and I had been arguing, the result of you-related tensions boiling over. You said to him, “If I wanted her, I could have her.” As though it were supposed to ease his mind. I knew when you said it that it wasn’t true. And you knew it, too. But I think he believed it, which was heart-breaking to me in itself. And that was the night his disdain for you was solidified. Anyway, he and I have created a beautiful life together since that night…a rock-solid marriage, a loving household, the most amazing daughter I could ever dream to call mine. He’s given me stability, kept me grounded, and showed me far more patience than I probably deserve. But I can’t ignore the fact that I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for the experiences you and I shared so long ago. You’ve always had a place in my heart, always will. Yet I feel like, out of deference to him, I can’t show how much your illness has been weighing on my mind.
I woke up yesterday morning to read Taylor’s post. You’re gone. And I’m not sure what to do with all the feelings I’m feeling. So I asked Chris to search through the basement to find “the box” for me. You know the one…teen-aged girls squirrel away mementos from boyfriends in “the box.” And most women probably burn that stuff when they start a new relationship or toss it in the trash when packing up their girlhood room to move into a new house. It’s definitely disposed of in some way before they get married. But I’m one of the lucky few who holds no ill feelings towards any of my exes, including you. So I’ve kept it all. And last night, I’m glad I did. I opened that shoebox for the first time in 14 years—I know because there are emails tucked away in there, dated for 2003. And I took out what was on top…an old t-shirt of yours, the one I wore as a nightgown after you left. And I wept into it.
I spent last night looking at old photos, reading old love letters, and remembering all the experiences we shared—the good and the bad. I know your friends will likely be sharing their memories of you over the coming days. And though ours go a bit further back than some, they’re important to me and I hope they were important to you, too. I won’t pretend to know the choices or circumstances that led you to where you ended up. Nor will I claim to know the man you’ve grown into. But I’ll tell you what I remember about our years together, a lifetime ago when we were kids….
I’m going to remember how we met. You moved in across the street from me in the summer of 1998. You used to ride your bike past my house real slow. You later told me it was because you wanted to talk to me but were afraid. Can you imagine?! So you sent your little sister over to talk to me first. She was about 8 or 9 at the time, I think. And when it was time for Taylor to come home, you came over to get her…and chatted with me. You know, since you were there anyway. You probably thought that was a pretty smooth move back. Thinking about it now actually brings a smile to my face.
I’m going to remember what it was like falling in love with you. We fell hard and fast, as is the way with teens. (I was 15. You were 18. Your mom was nervous. Hahah.) I’d had boyfriends before but you were my first love. The kind that, to this day, still makes my stomach do backflips when I think back on it.
I’m going to remember those square-cut diamond earrings that you wore in both ears. And that cologne of yours…. Did you know that for years after you, the slightest whiff of Tommy could bring me to my knees? I’m going to remember the way you cocked your fitted cap to the side when you wanted to lighten the mood. And the chain you never took off your neck. I’m going to remember how when you weren’t sure how to express your feelings, you spoke in song lyrics—you ALWAYS had the perfect song even when your own words failed you. I’ll remember the drawings and doodles and scribbled messages on marker boards. I’ll remember how you paused a little too long when speaking sometimes to avoid stuttering…a quirk you hated about yourself but one that I found endearing. I’ll remember Sunday morning softball games with my extended family…you could catch ANYTHING that was hit to the outfield. I’m going to remember making you pose for that god-awful “Titanic” themed portrait and the haunted house at Six Flags…and all that came before and after.
I’m going to remember that no matter how much of a “tough guy” you tried to act like, you were a softy. I’ll remember that you preferred to joke when conversations got too heavy and often hid your insecurities with cockiness. I’m so glad I saved those letters, including the ones we wrote back and forth in a journal that summer you came to visit when I was living with Bree. Do you remember that? It was surprisingly YOUR idea and you did it happily in my sparkly blue pens. You said so much in those letters. And I either didn’t realize the gravity of them then or had just let the memory fade. Reading them last night was cathartic.
And, sure, I’ll remember the arguments. The eye rolls. The exasperated sighs. The giving up. Hey, it’s all part of the experiences that shaped us, right? Love isn’t all rainbows and glitter all the time. And, with all the moving around you did, who could forget the goodbyes? There were tearful farewells in driveways and tearful drives to drop you off at home and tearful (and sometimes inappropriate…hahah) send-offs at bus stations. In fact, looking through old photos made me realize we did lots of crying. We got pretty good at goodbyes. But this one is the toughest because it’s the last.
Most of all, I’m going to remember how you made me feel. Safe. Loved. An important piece of your history. Flipping through the mementos of our time together has reminded me of who I was back then. And honestly, I hardly recognize that girl. She was adventurous and spontaneous and so so snarky. I miss her. And maybe if you’d looked back on those times, you might have thought the same about yourself—that you missed him. The him you used to be. I can’t picture him ever questioning how much he was loved.
I’m sorry, Nick. I’m sorry that we couldn’t have been the people we needed each other to be. But I’m not sorry for a single minute of the often tumultuous, on again off again, 2+ years of my life I spent with you. Or for any of the communicating we’ve done since then. Thank you for playing such a huge role in the experiences that have shaped me. And never EVER doubt that you were loved.
So long, old friend. I hope you find the peace that you couldn’t find here.
PS – Because I know you like to joke when the tears are coming, I’ll leave you with this. Typical Nick. Please note the god-awful “Titanic” themed portrait hanging on my wall behind you.
In memory of Nicholas Lorenzen (5/9/80 – 10/28/17)