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“I loved him, and I love him still. I can say those words without regret now. Losing Liam somehow gave me the confidence I needed to say what I should have said three years ago.

“I still remember the day we met. He was radiant, ostensibly searching for a text on medieval literature. I was living a terrible cliché, an aspiring writer working in a small, out-of-the-way bookstore. I knew the book he wanted immediately, and found it for him with minimal effort. He smiled and called me his hero (he told me that he’d checked two other stores first and, like most of our clientele, preferred to give his business to a local store rather than some website) and paid for his book.

“I felt a brief twinge of guilt as I asked him for his ID to run his credit card at checkout. It wasn’t our policy to do so at the time, but I wanted to learn as much about him as I could before he left, possibly never to be seen again. I told myself at that moment that I’d hit the jackpot. Liam Reynolds was six months older than me, and he lived close enough to my store that I could expect to see him come in again. Subtle stalking complete, I handed his license, credit card, and book to him, and wished him a great afternoon. In the wake of his ‘See you soon!’ I was struck giddy by the thought of how green his eyes had been.

“Fast forward a year and Liam and I had gone on three ‘official’ dates. He’d come back to the store once a week to talk with me, planning his visits around my lunch breaks so that we could have more time. He was going to grad school for a master’s degree in literature, something I’d never had the courage to consider since my BA had cost so much and done so little for me. I told him that I’d been interested in him since that first  meeting, and that his stopping by to share a cup of coffee helped me to get through each week. He told me that he’d heard about an unbelievable clerk at my store from a friend who was always looking out for him. He’d come in that first day just to see me…

“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t be crying right now. We were so happy back then. Liam was a hopeless romantic, having spent most of his life at that point looking for but never finding love. When I agreed to go out with him, I was showered with more attention than I knew how to handle. Love notes written in a messy scrawl inside the cover of books he bought for me, flowers, home cooked dinners (always a nice change from my ramen and sandwiches and frozen pizzas). Then we celebrated our first anniversary, and he said he wanted me to meet his parents.

“I panicked. I’d never met a boy willing to take me anywhere near his family, but Liam wrapped his arms around me, kissed me, told me how much he loved me, and made me feel like all was right with the world for the first time since middle school. I was scared because I knew that my parents would never accept Liam the way his welcomed me, and not just because he wasn’t Christian and he had tattoos and a lattice of pale pink scars on the inside of each thigh that no one else had ever seen.

“But I went with him. He gave me courage then, just as he does now. We spent a full week with his parents that summer. I met most of you that week, and I couldn’t believe how willing you were to welcome a complete stranger into your lives, and I can never thank you enough for being for me after…after… No, I’m fine. I’m almost done.

“Liam would have loved to see you all here, celebrating his life. He told me that he wanted this when he died, that he wanted a wake. He said that the idea of a funeral was too depressing, and that he wanted his family and friends to remember the good times. Now I think he’d hoped we’d have been a little older before that happened, but life is like that. You never know what you’ll find around the next corner.

“The last time I saw him, I told him I loved him, and he gave me that Han Solo half smile he would always do, and said ‘I know.’ I think he knew we all loved him, no matter what he’d been through, no matter what we’d managed to say to anyone else. He wasn’t always strong, but he was always strong for me, and now we have to do the same for him. That’s all I have to say, other than this. I loved him, and I love him still.”

6 Comments

  1. I love reading your work, and the wistful tone of this resonates particularly strongly for me, since I went to a rosary for a dear teacher couple nights ago. Same sentiments, wishing I had kept in touch, wondering if she was proud of me, knowing she would have been pleased to see these people there, celebrating her life. Well written, sir.

    • Thank you, Angela. There’s an incredibly wide array of emotions that are present when discussing one who has passed away, and I did what I could to capture the more positive side.

  2. FINALLY. Something new, I mean, not that I’ve been waiting for this one in particular. ‘Cause that would be impossible ’cause…yeah. Ahem. Deeply moving, wonderfully written, and well worth the wait. That’s what I’m trying to say.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, V. Sorry there’s been a bit of a dearth of new stories on here of late. Too many ideas coming into my head and fighting for who gets to make it to the paper first.

  3. <3. You are amazing.


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