This story is one of the July Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Allow me to set the scene for my earliest memory of Jay and me. We were just kids, six and three quarters to be exact, because at this age every month counting down to your birthday is exceptionally important to note. Born on the same day, four minutes apart, three doors down from each other at the hospital, our paths were meant to cross. If it wasn’t through our synchronized grand entrance into the world, it would have been the fact that only a street separated our houses or that we bonded over the same green stuffed animal monkey in preschool. It’s always been Jay and Maya from the very start.
But back to the good stuff. I remember six-year-old me, my honey colored hair in a half-up, half-down hairdo, drowning in a white lace dress I still hadn’t grown into since I wore it the previous Easter, holding a bouquet of wildflowers from the side of the road on Kerulet Canyon Street. Jay, as always, was star-of-the-show, life of the party… or in this case wedding. In his white button-down and tan suspenders, daphne blue tie mirroring the color of the two wide eyes staring into mine. That evening of May 27th, we said “I do” to an audience of our parents and siblings and sealed our vows with our made-up handshake.
Since our childhood wedding, we’ve shared twelve years, consisting of the whole braces thing, five-dollar film Friday’s accompanied with two Colas, his sour strips and my chocolate-covered raisins, going to each other’s sporting events, and asking advice on current crushes. At eighteen, high school graduation behind us and college in our way too near future, Jay and I made another vow: to spend all summer together until college move-in day. The most time we’d spent apart from each other were those five days I left for camp in the summer of second grade, where I cried the whole week away from home, from him… same thing, really. Jay was not a happy camper either, according to his mom, although he would never admit to it. Safe to say my seat on the bus to camp every year following second grade was taken by none other than Jay.
Besides our “wedding,” I sheepishly grin when I recall our twelve year anniversary, when he presented me with a “mission,” one full of surprises and unknown if I chose to accept. I remember lacing up my yellow Converse as he knocked on my door, Jay leading me to his silver Silverado (cleverly named Ol’ Silverado), and the day’s first surprise: a playlist he made just for this occasion. We drove around town, past the movie theatre, despite it being Friday, as his intentionally chosen songs vibrated through Ol’ Silverado’s speakers and spilled out of the windows onto the streets. I couldn’t help but notice an eagle soaring in wide circles above us, or how I felt as free as the bird right then. I rolled down my window and stuck out my head, soaking in the lazy sun rays making their way down to me, their warmth making my cheeks rosy. Even with my eyes closed, I could feel Jay’s eyes on me, and when I glanced back at him there he was: observing me like I was a priceless piece of art in a museum people from all over came to see.
When I got up to my room that night, my phone buzzed, and Jay’s name appeared on the screen, along with the playlist made in honor of our day. As I scrolled through the list, I see my name repeated again and again…
“Maybe You’re the Reason” by The Japanese House
“All We Ever Knew” by The Head and the Heart
“You” by Valley
“Anna Sun” by Walk the Moon
“My Arms Were Always Around You” by Peter Bradley Adams
“A Phone Call in Amsterdam” by Valley
“Yellow” by Coldplay
“All the Way” by joan
“My Thoughts on You” by The Band Camino
“All I Want” by Kodaline
“Yellow Eyes” by Rayland Baxter
“Alone With Me” by Vance Joy
Today, being Friday, May 27th, 2019, should be when Jay and I celebrated our 15th anniversary, but instead the calendar was marked with the second anniversary of his passing. Leukemia (n.): thief of joy. Instead, I saw a movie at the theatre, bringing along his sour strips, played his playlist without singing along as to not disturb the lyrics, picked wildflowers from Kerulec Canyon St. and laid them at his grave, which is when I saw it: the eagle soaring freely in the sky. I knew in that moment that Jay was doing the same, watching over me from above, free from all the pain that was chaining him to the ground; he was always meant to soar.