I had a friend from Freshman year pretty much through Senior Year. His name was Jason Epps. He sat in front of me in my freshman science class. I've always been a nerdy fan of those awful pick-up lines, and he introduced me to one of my favorite ones:
*Jason licks his finger and touches my shirt with said wet finger*
Jason: "You should get out of those wet clothes!"
and then he would smile coyly at me.
Initially, I didn't know how to take him. I know he was obnoxious, but he was chiefly sweet to me, so I decided to adopt him as a friend. Actually, I think he had a crush on me but I was too ignorant to act upon it.
He'd always, whether or not we had a class together during a school year, would track me down towards the end of the year and insist upon signing my yearbook. He'd always put his phone number inside and would write in it for me to call him so that we can hang out. I blame my apprehension chiefly on my lack of social... whatever. You know what? I was being an anti-social jerk. I didn't want to hang with anyone. It wasn't anything personal against him, from what I can recall.
By Senior year I figured he'd given up, but I remember him being sweet with me soon before Graduation, when I spotted him in the hallway in spiffy JROTC garb. I always felt bad for him because I heard that his parents had a lot left to be desired and so his grandmother had raised him. He was like a puppy that just needed a loving and positive influence, a friend, and I was too selfish to try and be that for him. I will never forgive myself for that.
So, Graduation came and went. I remember thinking to myself, there's no guarantee that the number he kept leaving in my yearbooks is even where he can be reached at anymore, so maybe I'll see him come the 10-year reunion (yes I know, I'm odd with wanting to wait... very odd)...
I walk through the Walmart near my house one evening - my house, which is quite near my high school and therefore many kids from the high school are still close and I'd see them on occasion in public... a kid, Mark, who little did I know was a mutual friend of Jason's, came up to me in the toilet paper aisle (he worked there, was stocking)... he goes, "Did you hear about Jason?" - this was October 2005, 5 months post-graduation. I said to him, "No, what?", he goes, "Jason and his girlfriend killed themselves"...
I remember just staring past him, then looking at him accusingly, trying to deduce if he was lying or not (he had been a kidder in the past), but his pallor was so somber that I knew better. My now-ex-husband was with me, and didn't know how to react, so he just stood there... I didn't know how to act. I think I asked, when? I'm pretty sure he responded, but can't remember when it was. I remember fighting the urge to grab Mark by his scraggly little shoulders and shake him until he said, "I'm just kidding!!! JUST KIDDING!!!"...
Once we got home and I got myself alone, I sifted through my yearbooks, sobbed, and let the grief and anger and denial rain upon me as I realized that maybe I could have prevented this. If I had reached out to him... well, you see what I'm trying to say here. I failed him, in my own way.
As time passed, even though it was still heavy on my mind, I looked up the article online - he and his girlfriend, both in pajamas, were in a van and had closed up the windows and such and parked the van in a parking lot and left it running. Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Sounds like the girlfriend's parents never saw it coming. No doubt they blame Jason, and probably still do to this day. I can't say whether or not it was his fault; I wasn't there, and her name I didn't recognize - turns out she'd graduated from a different high school. I found it sordidly ironic that our high school and hers were rivals. The way in which they went about ending their lives shook me a little inside, since it had an aire of familiarity to it, but I couldn't put my finger on what was so familiar... Then it dawned on me.
We had, in Health class, seen a video there about teen depression, and it depicted a teen boy who was depressed who met a depressed teen girl, and they wound up bringing eachother down further, and wound up doing the typical running-car-in-the-closed-garage scene. Once again with the sordid humor, I thought to myself, "he couldn't have even been original!".
I know... I guess I'm just sick. But humor is how I cope with horrible things. I hope I see him on the other side and maybe something can become of us, assuming he isn't with the girlfriend on the other side. If he is, maybe I'll go adopt a spirit cat. Seems to be my theme in life anyways.