One the first day of kindergarten, they took roll call. I felt heartened- the guy on the list before me had an even harder-to-pronounce last name than I did. I found out later that it was a Basque name (same as mine) and those Basques seem to delight in putting together some bizarre letter combinations.
Anyway. I was 4 years old, the youngest kid in the class. Somehow, realizing that the teacher couldn't pronounce his name either made him feel like an ally. Most of my friends on the block were boys, but they were fair and freckled and seemed like a completely different species.
This kid was dark- black hair and eyes, with beautiful olive skin and rosy cheeks and a slightly crooked smile that lit up the room- when he smiled, which was a lot. I remember admiring his outfit- he had on corduroys and a red and blue plaid shirt.
Needless to say, this is the first time I can remember ever having a crush on someone. But I was a shy little girl- I just remember sort of watching him from afar as he roughhoused with the other little boys. But Mike was always different somehow.
I just remember his smile, his friendliness- there was a certain sweetness that just seemed to exude from him.
I changed schools after the third grade, and lost track of him- but somehow, in high school, I ran into him again- he was in my art class.
Aside from the obvious changes, Mike was into music like Guns and Roses, and I was in Academic Decathlon. Completely opposite ends of the spectrum. And yet, he was still adorable, and I still had a crush on him, to the point where it was almost crippling, which he was cheerfully oblivious to.
I think Art was his favorite subject, and he spent most of the time immersed in whatever project he was working on. He was really talented, and I specifically remember envying the realism of his drawings.
The last time I saw Mike, I was in college- probably a sophomore at Davis, and I was at a party with my friends in Fresno. I didn't know anyone else there. But my friends still lived in Fresno, and they were circulating and having a great time, and they'd just sort of forgotten about me.
Then this guy comes up to me- long dark wavy hair, which sort of threw me, but then there was that same smile. He greeted me, gave me a huge hug, and we caught up with what was going on in our lives- how he was going to City College, and really getting into his music. He introduced me around and made sure I was comfortable. At a college party where everyone's wasted, this isn't the norm. But that's just how Mike was.
Three days before I left for Paris, my mom called me to say that Mike was dead. She said there'd been some kind of accident in Tahoe.
To say that I was upset would be an understatement. To make matters worse, I would miss the memorial service. I looked at his obituary online, and saw posts from several of my former classmates- they all remembered Mike the same way that I did. They talked about his talents as a musician and as an artist.
Then last night, I asked my father about the details of the accident. Dad looked at me and said, "Mike committed suicide. He threw himself in front of an oncoming car.
There were four witnesses."
I held it together until The Man and I got in the car, and then I just....dissolved.