We Were the Lucky Ones

Monday, February 12, 2018 / 2:27 AM

Ever since I was a kid, when I needed to process something: I would write. It started out in pink diaries and spiral notebooks, and then moved on to Xanga and Tumblr.

This blog, now, has been where I've processed the most as I've grown older: joy, pain, heartbreak, love.


These words are not perfect. I've been writing, and re-writing, this. I've hovered on the "publish" button until falling asleep from pure exhaustion. If you're reading this now, it's because I need to take another step forward in processing what happened.

There's no guidebook for a moment like this, when someone who was so very much present suddenly becomes the past. Last week, I booked a train ticket. We made plans to see A Wrinkle in Time on opening weekend. I put his birthday present in my Amazon shopping cart so I wouldn't forget to order it when I got back from my Lunar New Year trip home.

"Must be fate," he wrote as we planned out the visit. (There was an hourglass emoji in there too.)

That was our last exchange. I keep looking at it, waiting for the follow up.

Finals week, freshman year. We went to the library just to take this photo.
We called each other "Other Half." At one point during an all-nighter essay-writing session over AIM, he deliriously wrote "O.T." instead of "O.H.," and then he called me "O.T." ever since. We were absolute opposites, but we found the moments that made us click so well. I was jealous of how quickly and easily he made friends. He would remind me to tell him if he was being too impulsive. Scroll back through our Facebook chats or the AIM conversations that were archived in my Gmail, and you'll find long rambling messages about everything and nothing all at once. If we fought, it was usually over something stupid, and we always made up by reminding each other that we'd have nobody else to watch Greek with if we weren't talking.

After college, our all-nighters turned into phone calls I would get off the subway to answer with the sounds of the loud New York sidewalks behind me, or Skype chats that he would delay dinner plans to take. We mock interviewed one another before job interviews and he let me word vomit my pro/con lists to him whenever a big decision came up.

“Besties since freshies,” he joked on Instagram captions. We weren't intertwined in each others' lives the way some "besties" are. We had separate groups of friends, did separate activities in college, had separate things we enjoyed over others. But we always made time – for late-night boba runs and shopping and long talks.

We were there for the celebrations and for the tears. He was there for my darkest moments, including the lowest point. He saved my life – both figuratively and literally. He never doubted me for a second.

For every milestone over the last 10 years, he was never farther than a text away.

It wasn't supposed to end like this.

We were supposed to have more moments, more milestones.

I've written about this before, but there's that line from Rent I always go back to when a loss occurs: "You always used to say how lucky we were that we were friends, but it was us, baby, who were the lucky ones."

And I'm trying so hard right now to remember that our time on this earth is borrowed. The time we have is all we have, and we should all be so lucky to have met the people who we needed to meet. After his father died, I remember one point where we just sat in my room and stared at the floor for a long time without saying anything. (Eventually, I wrote him a song. The video is still on my Facebook page, but it's private now. Most, if not all, of my photos from college are private, to be honest. But they're there.)

Most of my weekend has also been spent also staring at floors. On day 2 of trying to process, I started to feel guilt because of the distance or the time zones that sometimes kept us from being 100% there for each other. And then I went to his Facebook page and noticed for the first time the "featured photos" section I hadn't seen before – and of course he would organize every corner of every social media profile, so he would use the "featured photos" section that I rarely ever see anyone use – and there's a photo of us there, and I felt another cut inside of me, just a little deeper, because it means it wasn't in my head.

Because it means one of the closest people to me in the world is really just... gone.

I'm not sure what the next step is because I've never felt this specific type of pain before – the type of pain that grips at parts of your heart you didn't know could feel pain. The type of pain that makes it hard to breathe.

I wanted to tell you a poignant story, or one that's deeply personal, but those memories need to be just for me and the people who knew him best at this time. So instead, if there's one story I want to tell you right now, it's this: the night of my 21st birthday party, my roommates and I had gone to the store so I could buy my first official bottle of wine. We chose the most absurd looking one – the label was of a bear throwing up fire.

At the party, we started drinking it and it tasted awful. And because my friends were all verbose English major dorks, everyone started writing descriptive insults on the living room white board to roast this wine. And then Alan showed up, drank the wine, and said it "wasn't that bad." We all made fun of him while he spent the entire night passionately defending this wine.

I'm looking at the photo of the white board now, and there it is: Alan in a nutshell.

The only person to write something kind on the board, and with a smiley face next to it too, because that's who he was. He always found something good to say.

He was one of the good ones. He is. He always will be.

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