At first he seemed alien to me. He was tall, pale under the lights of the church where I saw him most weeks, and he wore a baseball cap close to his eyes. To me, his whole demeanor was odd and a little off putting. I would nod at him as he came around to get the trash from the tables where the rest of sat and ate. My eyes, always scanning the room, would meet his gaze briefly before quickly looking away.
I'm too shy to say more than hello, I would defend myself to no one.
His walk was mechanical, purposeful as if his body had been held under stress of something far too long. I knew his story, sad and tragic as it was, just like everyone else did.
I don't want to intrude on his life, I'd say silently. Give him his space. He'll speak if he wants to.
But, he never did. A friendship never formed. We never had the chance to know each other through any type of good times.
It wasn't til later, when I heard his father's voice that I sought him out. I tucked my shyness away, and summoned courage that I really didn't have, so that I could approach him during the most intimate and devastating time of his life. I looked at the man, with the pal skin and long legs, as he lay in the hospital bed, and smiled. Introductions were made. Chit chat was exchanged. An instant friendship was formed.
It never occurred to me to ask if it were ok to intrude in on the last moments of his life. It did not cross my mind in the least that he may want to spend his last remaining months away from the prying eyes of an unknown girl who was just as odd as he was.
Our friendship was formed over silences and holding hands. Oh, how I long to have the moments back where I would lay my head on his chest, listening for the heart beat that spoke to me the bitter truth that lives in us all. That time is counted down from the moment we inhale our first breath. That tomorrow will never be promised. And that love, no matter how brief it is felt, should be cherished above all else.
Had I known then, as I watched him move about the people at the church, that he was not so different than me, I would've said more than just a casual hello. Had I known how much I would miss our talks, the laughter, the blessed silence that sealed our affections, I would've held him through the good times as well as the bad.
When he finally passed, I laid my head on his chest and heard our silence resonate throughout his body.
So, I'll file away our time together and tuck it back where I once had to place my shyness so we could speak. He's in a better place, I tell myself. Don't be selfish, I whisper into the night. It's been a year.