The Good Luck Joes
Five years ago you sat across from me. I bought us Wendy’s with my freshman meal card because you had spent all of yours. I wasn’t surprised.
I asked what you were doing, and you laughed and told me all of the reasons that moving home was what you wanted. I asked what you were really doing, what you were doing to yourself, and you said you didn’t know.
You didn’t know.
I told you for the millionth time how smart you were, how sickeningly smart you could be if you just stopped being stupid. And even though you shook your head I knew that you agreed because I could see it in your eyes. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would ever read what you weren’t saying in them.
“And I don’t mind, and I don’t mind to look inside your thoughts.
And I don’t mind, and I don’t mind, but I can’t find my way in.”
We were supposed to hang out during my free week between semesters, but I forgot to call you, and you didn’t call me. I think we would have gone to Steak and Shake. I think we would have talked about all of the times we’d eaten there while we were student directing. I would have shown you that I still had that key we had copied, and you would have asked for it again and I would have said no because it would be way too big of a temptation for you, and when I promised your mom that I would make sure you passed AP English, that also seemed to include a silent agreement that I wouldn’t give you the master key to the high school to help you to get in trouble.
I don’t know if I would have seen it in your face this time. I don’t know if I would have asked the right questions. This is the part that feels so hollowed by cliché. These are the questions that have been asked millions of times. Would I have known? How could I have seen it if no one else did? Why didn’t you tell someone? Why didn’t you tell me? But we didn’t go to Steak and Shake, and you didn’t tell anyone, and I went back to school, and you slipped away.
“Far away, what was deemed to never change, found a rift, made a void at its own pace.
In a blindside ambush fight, it all fell at the hands of a mind game.”
I wonder all the time what your last thoughts were. I wonder the last words you spoke. I wonder if you wished you could take it back. I try so hard to remember what the last thing I said to you was, but it’s moments like that one where you don’t realize how much you should hold on to it until you’ve already let it go.
“And I will, and I will, and I will set you free.
And I will, and I will, and I will set you free.”
I know that it’s been five years now, but I still see you almost every day. You don’t look the way you used to; your story isn’t the same. But then again, when you boil it down, isn’t every hurting person’s story about a human in pain? There are so many things I wish I could have said to you back then, but I didn’t know I needed to say them. I can say them to you now, though.
It is never too late for you. Never. There is no escape in a bottle, only another handful of chains. There is always hope. You might not see it, but it is there in your ska music and your frisbee golf and every time you play your trombone. There is hope in the battle. I am with you. Don’t stop fighting because I can’t win it on my own, and neither can you.
And I care. I care that you are hurting and I care that you make it through this. Please don’t give up. Please.
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