You always had time to talk. I’d give you a call and start to walk, and for an hour or two I would wander around town while filling you in on the happenings in my life. You were my impartial third party; I could talk to you about anything. I’d rant about my incessant coursework, share the small ways some friend was annoying me, or dive deep into some issue I was having in my relationship. There was nothing that needed censoring, no worries that any secrets would get out, no uncouth college details that needed to be omitted.

I would feel proud to tell you my accomplishments. I loved to tell you all about the cool project I worked on, the awesome people I met, the fun nights I had. I’d tell you my plans and goals, and you’d hold me to them. When I fell short, you’d poke holes in the rationalizations I built up for myself. You’d be painfully honest when you knew I wasn’t giving it my all. But you also knew when I was being too hard on myself, and knew when to have me step back and look at the bigger picture, and realize that things were going alright.

And you did the same back in high school. We would go to the Y, lift for a bit (which I never would have done without your encouragement), and then sit in the hot tub and talk. You’d always peek into the pool on our walk to the locker room, and I can still hear your “yessssss!” when you saw that the lifeguard working that night was the one that let us stay for an extra half hour past close. The issues we discussed seem so distant, so childish now. But then, they weren’t. During those high school years, when the world is so small and every problem seems so large, having a friend like you was invaluable. Instead of keeping all those adolescent fears bottled up and brewing inside me, I was able to pour them out to you.

And then the clock would strike, and the lifeguard would start walking over to kick us out. You’d never start to leave while he was on his way, you’d always milk those last few precious seconds of hot water. Eventually we’d get out and change and head to our cars, always among the last few left in the lot. But we still wouldn’t leave, we’d get in our cars and you’d pull yours up next to mine, our drivers side windows lowered and next to each other like we were cops on a stakeout. And we’d keep talking.

We’d keep talking like we did in the locker room before soccer practice. When everyone else was done and gone, and you were making sure your ankle was wrapped just the way you needed it. And we’d stand up to finally leave, at this point easily 10 minutes late, and you’d decide that your calf was still a little sore from the game last night, and you’d sit right back down and rummage through your bag to find that advil.

We’d keep talking like we did at one in the morning playing Call of Duty. We didn’t play the new ones, we always played cod4. You already knew the maps on that one, you’d say, why would you want to start all over and relearn the new ones? But the game itself didn’t really matter. Those nights, it wasn’t about the kill death ratio or planting the bomb. Those nights it was just an excuse to hang out over the internet, a way for us to keep our eyes and hands busy while conversing.

We’d keep talking like we did back in social studies in 8th grade, when I met that quiet kid who didn’t talk much. And you never really did talk a whole lot, but you could listen better than anyone. In every one of our talks, you were an impeccable listener. You would hear me out, and I would give my whole story without any interruptions, and without any judgement. I felt comfortable sharing my deepest personal insecurities with you, knowing that you would hear them. And I didn’t always need you to talk back, I didn’t always need solutions or critiques or responses. I needed to be heard. And you listened.

You taught me how to listen, Mike.

And I wish I could have listened to more of your stories. I know you would’ve had a lot of them, if that one cell in your knee hadn’t mutated in the way that it did. But it did. And it sucks.

But I was lucky enough to have met you during your short time here. I learned a lot from you, Mike. You made me a better person. You will forever be a part of who I am.

Whenever I interact with another person, you’re in there somewhere. While you’re no longer alive, you live on as I pass the lessons you taught me on to other people. You didn’t just make me a better person, you made the whole world a better place.

I love you Mike. I miss you.

Posted on 29 Dec 2014