I tried to tell him, but I couldn't get through. Now he's gone forever.
| I met him once, and I’ll meet him again.
That’s a promise.
That thought was drifting airily through my head at the moment of his departure, the moment I had eluded all day. I stood there, straight-faced and straight-forward, and said goodbye.
Inside this boy, there was something that couldn’t be denied, however forcefully he tried to do so. Inside him, there was hurt, pain, confidence, arrogance, all the qualities one would expect to find in an average eighteen year-old.
Inside him, there was an evil at work.
As I sat there with him that night not so long ago, attempting to study in the muddled confines of a box he called his room, I never saw it coming. Never from him. However, this was a moment; this was a time I knew would last in my mind.
So I put down my books, and we talked.
He made me cry that night. His words stung my heart with such force there was no holding back. I tried to tell myself it was a lie, that everything he said was just some big joke. The tears drowned that hope.
To any person who would consider themselves fairly strong in their faith, what came out of his mouth would come as shocking, so I wasn’t surprised. More hurt, I would say.
It shocked me beyond all I know how he could do it, how he could tell the story of his future life without emotion, without a care in the world. If he died tomorrow, so be it. If he went to hell, so be it. He accepted his atheism with pride.
What hurt so much was that his life was much like mine in many respects. We both felt the loneliness in high school, we both experienced the pangs of peer pressure, and we both sought resolute endings. And we got them, however different they might be.
He took the route that is unfortunately the more stereotypical. He sought control of his life, and thus came to believe he had it. I came to believe that I could not control my life, so I gave it to the one who could. Opposites attract, and as a result this boy became the closest thing to a best friend I had in college.
And now he was gone.
Inside this boy, there was some corner of his soul that knew the truth; nothing could convince me otherwise. Inside him, however slight it was, there was some slight curiosity that threatened his self-control, his temporary peace.
Inside him, there was uncertainty.
I suppose it came as no great surprise that it wasn’t two months later before I found myself once more slouched down on his futon in his box-room.
And once more we talked.
This time I held back; I did not allow myself to cry. I merely stared at the floor in blunt silence, listening to his past, drawing parallels to my own. He stood his ground, and I stood mine. Nothing said by either of us could penetrate the walls we had both built up because of our pasts. Nothing could change our minds.
We were both stubborn in our beliefs; we both thought we were right. So, once again, I walked away feeling heavy and hurt at heart.
That would be the last time.
As he left, I struggled one last time to hold them back, to remain strong. We did the traditional hug and handshake, swapped emails, and that was it. I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, make anything more of it than that. I was too afraid of showing just how much I cared about him.
With all of my clustered thoughts swimming blindly through my mind, the only words I could muster were a solemn “I’ll miss ya buddy,” and then a goodbye as he walked out the door. I hated myself for that.
It was only when he walked out the door for good that it hit me.
I hadn’t tried hard enough.
I hadn’t tried to be the kind of caring person he needed most, I hadn’t tried to show my faith through my actions, but rather relied on the strong-yet-weak power of words. I had failed as a Christian. What followed was the hardest lesson I’ve yet learned.
Inside this boy there was a good, pure heart, searching for the truth. Inside him, there was resistance, struggle, and life…all of the things I had tried to instill in him, yet failed to see that they were there all along.
Inside him, there was hope.
I realized this as I sat there in the sober darkness of my own box-room, holding my head in my hands, praying to God between harsh, muffled sobs.
Wiping the streaming tears from my eyes, I clutched my sides, trying to breathe through my cries.
Through the times we spent together, and the more time I spent learning his heart, the more our friendship grew, whether he knew it or not.
Whether or not I was anything more to him than just another guy telling him what was right and what was wrong, only time will tell. Yet everyday I pray for him, for his spirit, his heart, yet above all, for our meeting in the after-life.
I stood up, dried my face, and smiled at that thought.
I met him once, and I’ll meet him again.
That’s a promise.