Letter to a Friend

BY ERIN HAAKER

My dear friend,

I miss you. Did you know that? Your laughing eyes that watched me so warmly, the way they would crinkle at the edges when you’d smile at me. All teeth and charm and sweet amusement. I've never seen eyes so blue, like a piece of sea glass I had found once.  You had this dimple in your cheek when you’d look at me through your lashes and smile. I wanted to kiss that dimple. I wish I had. Did I tell you that I dream of you often? I’d be looking for you in some wild scenario where my world was ending and I knew you were there somehow. I would call your name in desperation or exasperation knowing this was a dream, but wanting to find you anyway. Needing to see you . The phantom of you would suffice until I could see the real you in person. You would pick me up, your car cool and purring and when I slid into the black leather seat. I felt like I was being spirited away to some magical place. Your hand on the shift I would see first, large and long fingered, nails neat, dark hair sprinkled. Your laughing eyes and warm smile I would see next looking at me knowingly. You would smirk softly and tell me that I look beautiful, I would blush and smile back looking at your chin because I felt I would burn up if I looked you in the eyes. You would so gently tilt my head back with your large hand and make me meet your eyes before you would say again seriously this time “You are beautiful.” And I would believe you because no man or boy had ever called me that. The air between us would be electric but there was no pressure You never pressured me for anything. We would go and get coffee, sit in huge squishy chairs that made me feel like a doll compared to you. Your broad shouldered and large hands cradling a coffee cup chatting about this new project at work, excited like a small child over a new toy to play with. Using words I’d never heard before but easily explaining them to me when I would get curious and ask you. Mendacious was one of them. You told me it meant lying or deceitful when you said, “I felt he was being very mendacious.” “Ah, okay. So what happened then?” was my response. You would grin, happy to help me learn something new. And I was happy that I could make you smile. The tension holding you so rigidly at first would melt away over the next hour and you would be laughing from your belly and snickering at my sarcasm. You always said I was funny as hell, something that would make me crinkle my nose and laugh. I love how you made me laugh.

I was awestruck by you. You who seemed larger than life and who always answered my questions honestly and thoughtfully. You who looked at me as if I was the most precious thing you’d ever seen. You told me how you wanted to be a pilot growing up, how you grew up poor and that you missed your family in Greece. You would tell me how your nonna would call you and say, “You need to eat more! You a growing boy! You make sure you eat good, now let me speak to your poppa.” I would giggle and say that I want to meet this formidable woman someday and you would grin at me and say that she would love me. I remember talking to your aunt and momma on the phone, how they laughed and teased you until you blushed and your ears went red. How they called you baby and how you were such a little terror as a child. Your momma told me a story of how you would prank call the house and steal cookies while she was distracted. She said she knew it was you but getting those calls made her laugh so hard she couldn't help but let you have the cookies. She told me how hard you worked travelling for your dad’s business and how you worked even when you had days off. That it seemed the only time you really laughed like you did as a child is when you were talking about me. She said that I made you happy, and I didn't tell you this, but that comment made me cry.

I didn't tell you how much it did for me to hear your voice over the phone. It was deep and calm and a little tired most nights. You didn't seem real to me then. The time I spent with you was so bright and intense it could only have been a dream. Every moment I spent with you made every day without worth it, and I would do it again. I told you I wanted to end things because I wasn't grown up enough, and that I wanted to become independent and strong. You looked at me with this fierce sort of pride that shook me, no one had ever looked at me like that. You agreed and hugged me so tight that I feel it changed something in me. There was pride in your eyes and a sort of sadness. It was the first time I had seen your eyes truly sad. You agreed and we became just friends, even though the electricity was still there. Even though you would call me late at night and say you were thinking of me. I was dreaming of you, too.

No one ever tells you about how that connection really feels. How precious and rare it is. How it shook us both down to our cores and that it was almost painful in how sweet it was. It cut me to the bone while giving me a reason to keep breathing. You would have teased me about feeling things so intensely but you would have understood. You felt things just as intensely. I don’t know if you knew but you were my greatest dream. You were my happily ever after. I never believed I would have that until I met you. But happily ever after’s are for kids,and I know you would scold me for saying that. I have heard people say that saying “I love you” is overrated. But is it more overrated the things we could have said but chose not to? Or the things we didn't have a chance to say? I’m not sure. But I think you would have had an idea about it.

It was six days ago your aunt called me and told me you had died suddenly in an accident. It was six days ago that my heart died and refused to stop beating. It was six days ago I had to choose if I wanted to live or if I wanted to die. Six days ago I decided reluctantly to live, because you would have chided me gently and told me to fight for my life. You would have hugged me so hard I would feel safe again. You would have stroked my cheeks with your too large hands and said, “Baby, it’s going to be okay. I promise. Just keep fighting, you know your worth.” You won’t read this letter, but maybe you’ll feel how I feel. Maybe someday I’ll stop catching hints of your cologne in the air, hearing your laugh when I’m half asleep, and searching for you when I dream. Maybe someday I won’t expect you to come for me and maybe I’ll finally be able to save myself.

My dear friend,

    I miss you.