I met you at a girlfriend’s house when I was a freshman in high school. I was practicing for a dance show, and I believe awkwardly kicking my left leg in the air when you walked through Jaime’s front door with Adam. You were tall, slender, good looking, and a junior. You drove a black SUV, listened to The Counting Crow’s on heavy rotation, and smacked your gum about a million times a minute. You said hello to the five of us that day, and that was it.
I loved you for many reasons. You were kind and positive. You liked adventure and had more energy than anyone I know. You were simple, and calm, and unaffected by the world. And you were funny. You loved to laugh. You had two catch phrases: I would ask, “How was your day?” to which you always seemed to answer, “I need a vacation!” Your other phrase of choice was, “It’s not easy!” I believe this was meant to describe the part of your life that took place while not on vacation.
And I will tell you, it was not easy. Over the years, we had more than our share of ups and downs. It wasn’t easy to care about you and even more difficult to hate you. But I had fallen in love with you at fourteen, way before I even understood what love really was. You knew my great qualities and even more of my not so great qualities. Yet, you still chose to be my friend and stand by my side.
You died on a Monday in August.
I was 23. You would have been 26 that November.
After Courtney called to alert me of your passing, I got into my car, turned on the radio, and immediately the song played—your song, “Mr. Jones,” the one that always reminded me of you. You loved that song, and there it was, like a sign, or a blessing, or a warning. I don’t know why I had that experience that day, but I like to think it was simply because my friend just wanted to say “Hi.”
Well, hi back, Rick. Happy Birthday. I miss you.