I remember this place like the back of my hand.
I remember the treehouse in the woods at the back of my house. I’d climb the trees with her, and we’d just read and enjoy each other’s company. One time, I was down about a test in school that I’d failed. She made sock puppets and put on a show until I smiled. She made up silly little songs and storylines. She didn’t stop until I was crying of laughter.
I remember the school playground where we met and grew up together. We’d always run out to the playground on our lunch break and play hide and seek. We took the game so seriously that one time, we didn’t speak for a week because she thought I cheated and peeked whilst she was hiding. I ended up bribing her into talking to me again with a mini teddy bear that I won in a claw machine. She kept that bear until age eighteen. I still have it somewhere.
I remember the fair that we went to in the ninth grade, where I fell in love. That was one of the greatest days of my life. Not because I was a huge fan of the rides, but because she was. The way that her eyes lit up when she laughed, the way that her wavy hair fell in her face, the cute dimples she always hated. That was the first time that I’d ever even liked someone in a romantic way. It was exhilarating and terrifying and heartbreaking and confusing all at the same time. That being said, I loved being in love with somebody for once, even though I was pretty sure it was one sided.
I remember the ice-cream shop where I told her how I felt in twelfth grade. I remember playing with my sundae until it was basically a melted mess of sprinkles and chocolate sauce.
The feeling of vulnerability when I finally managed to tell her that I’d been in love with her for the past two years, unsure of whether or not she even remotely liked me.
I remember the feeling of total relief when she said that she liked me back. After that day, it was our date spot. We even had our table, right by the window. We’d get little pots of ice-cream and she would talk about the new book she was reading, or the newest scandal in the TV series she was obsessed with. I loved listening to her and how excited she got.
Our love was like this sun. It burned so brightly and it lit up my entire life. It carried me through my best and worst moments. She was my constancy in the uneven, unsure mess of growing up and changing as people. But the brighter the sun, the darker the shadows.
Because I also remember the treehouse as the place we had our first fight. We were seventeen, talking about our futures and all the things we were going to do. She was quiet. At the time, I thought I did something wrong, so I brought it up. She said it was nothing. I got offended. I’d give anything to go back to that moment and tell myself to just let her talk to me when she was ready. Instead, I assumed that she wasn’t as excited for our future as I was, and told her exactly that. That lead to the first fight we ever had.
The beginning of the end.
I remember the fair being the place where she was about to tell me. We got candy floss, and she said she had something serious to talk about. I asked if it could wait until later. I was so happy just being with her, and I didn’t want anything to bring me down.
God, I wish I let her tell me. I could’ve braced myself for the storm that was coming. I could’ve cherished my time with her even more.
I remember the ice-cream shop being the place where she finally got to tell me. The place where my world fell apart.
I remember getting the call. The call that I had been dreading since she told me why she’d been so quiet.
I remember the hospital. Holding her hand and stroking her hair, telling her that everything would be okay. Trying not to notice the violent dark circles under her eyes, or the fact that she looked deathly pale. Telling her that we would go to college together, move to the city together, get married and have kids together. I was trying to convince her that we could still be those happy kids in the treehouse, that I could still be that lovesick girl in the fair for the rest of my life with her.
I remember the noise of her flatlining. That steady noise, the one consistent thing in my mind as the sun was eclipsed and my light extinguished right before my eyes.
I lost the the person who made me believe that love was real. I lost the one person who helped me understand what the songs and the books were talking about. I lost the love of my life at age eighteen.
It follows me, five years later. I could‘ve done more, I could’ve helped her.
I wish I would’ve been there for her. I might have not been able to change her fate, but I could‘ve comforted her. If I just let her tell me in the treehouse or at the fair, I would’ve been able to help her.
Now, the sight of the fair makes me sick. Just looking at that damn treehouse makes me want to rip down the entire damn tree. Because my love was taken away from me, and I didn’t even tell her how much I wanted to be there for her.
There’s one place in this town that I never went to until today. Even after she died, I walked every inch of this town and relived every amazing and horrible memory except for one. One place I never though I’d have to be.
I look down at my bouquet of flowers. Daisies and pink roses, the first flowers I ever bought her, and the last ones I’ll ever give to her.
I kneel down and place them on the ground. I look up at the tombstone and the words inscribed onto it. The sight of her name on a tombstone is too much for me, and makes me feel physically sick. Because when she died, that sparkle in her eyes died. Her dimples and her cute little button nose died. All the good memories we shared died, replaced with ghosts of the past that I can never shake, and am unsure if I’ll ever want to.
Before I stand up and walk away, I whisper my final goodbye to her.
’I’ll see you soon, my sun. I love you.’