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Drywall Shavings MAG
It was baseball. There was something about those oversized dentist operating lights playing tag with the bugs and the butter-coated popcorn bags that littered the bleachers. Not the actual popcorn, just the striped bag it came in. The popcorn tasted like drywall, but drywall must have been a popular flavor because I sat in a sea of popcorn bags. Alone.
I had been waiting for a friend to bring me IHOP hot chocolate, but she forgot to bring it. Actually she forgot to show up at all. So I had to deal with the hot chocolate from the concession stand. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a blessing in disguise because you were there working.
I did my best to flirt, but I ended up talking about how disgusting the popcorn was, and we got into a heated debate on whether it tasted more like drywall or pencil shavings. We decided on drywall shavings.
You wrote it on the back of a popcorn bag and taped it to the machine, then scribbled a ten-digit number on my hot chocolate cup. I pretended I didn't know what it was. Another failed attempt at flirting. It must have been good enough, though, because you came and sat by me during the ninth inning and we threw popcorn at the umpire until the game was over.
On the way home I blasted “Enchanted” by Taylor Swift and silently thanked IHOP's hot chocolate for not making an appearance. My dad asked what the score was, but I said I didn't know, which was the truth because I wasn't even sure which teams had played that night. But it didn't matter because I dreamed of drywall shavings.
Our relationship was kept on the down low. By down low, I mean no one was allowed to know. Your motto became “I don't kiss and tell anyone. Ever.” As a naive sophomore, I believed it was because you didn't want my parents to find out I was dating a senior. I was stupid enough to think you cared.
When you decided to go to Arkansas to play baseball, I was heartbroken. I was in love. Mostly blind and ignorant, but in love nonetheless.
The day you left, I spent most of the morning in bed, staring at my phone and waiting for you to text me back. I don't remember what we were talking about. Something about seaweed. It had been almost an hour since you last replied, and I knew you weren't busy. All you were doing was driving. Texting and driving.
The call came at 1:57 p.m. I could barely understand your mom over her shuddering sobs. They cut straight through the phone and remained in my ears for six months.
“Jake has been in an accident.”
I remember now that it was unusually bright that afternoon, which was strange considering the circumstances.
“… texting and driving …”
In any romantic tragedy, it would have been pouring down rain. Sheets of it crashing to the ground and moaning with each blow.
“… an eighteen-wheeler hit him head on.”
My automatic, idiotic response was: “Is he okay?”
And as soon as she answered, the clouds started crying.
• • •
Your entire right side was crushed. Every single bone in your body was shattered. Shards of bone were launched into the leather seats of your BMW. It took three firemen to cut you out. You were believed to be dead on impact. However, your sweet mother did not have to deliver me this news.
“He is in a coma.”
A coma. I had hope, but I knew it was false hope.
Of course, I was unable to see you in the hospital. My parents didn't know who you were, and true to my word, I have not told them to this day. I suffered two weeks of wondering if you were okay. Two weeks of skipping class to cry in the bathroom and wipe my tears with the sandpaper the school calls paper towels. Two weeks later, I got called to the school office.
“Matt,” I croaked as soon as I saw your best friend. His face was expressionless and his eyes were empty tombs.
I knew before he told me. We walked to the parking lot and I cried in his truck for the entire lunch period and wondered if you were watching from heaven. So, Jake, if you aren't watching, listen up. This is the best part.
“I thought you should know, he cheated on you.”
I never kiss and tell anyone.
“He slept with four different girls.”
“One of them was Taylor.”
A million eighteen-wheelers crashed into my chest, and I couldn't breathe. Taylor. My best friend who couldn't even bring me IHOP hot chocolate. Matt apologized, handed me a Ziploc bag, and drove away.
It's amazing how loss can transform so quickly into anger. It was impossible to miss you, and I couldn't look at my best friend without wanting to throw hot chocolate in her face and call her out. But I couldn't. She would deny it, and no one else even knew you existed.
It rained, appropriately, for three weeks straight after that. It was the most rain we've ever gotten in Texas, and I cried along with the clouds. Months went by, and I held in my anger toward you, refusing to miss you. It was easy not to miss you.
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through my old pink-and-yellow binder from sophomore year. It had “Jacob” written everywhere with hearts and spirals and smiley faces. As I was ruffling through the papers, a Ziploc bag plummeted to the floor.
“Here. Open it when you've calmed down.”
Little did Matt know it would take me a year to calm down. My heart thundered in my chest as I opened the bag and pulled out a weathered paper bag. I looked at that thing for almost thirty minutes straight. My eyes stung with tears daring to pour down my cheeks. But I held it in, grabbed a pen, and here I am, Jake, writing you a letter you'll never get to read.
This is to thank you for making me strong. For maturing me and letting me experience loss and pain and hurt. Thank you for keeping this in your car all those months. At least I know you cared a little. I can't believe I fit all of this on here, but this is my final good-bye.
• • •
I set the pen down and walked past the abandoned field toward the popcorn machine. Slowly, I taped the bag over the red faded letters on the glass. The clouds were crying as I looked at the small manuscript surrounding the two words scrawled in the middle of the popcorn bag.