I wrote this a while ago in hopes of winning a story contest, but they refused based on the fact that it sounds like a eulogy. I can see this, but would still like it to be out there for others.
Those bright orange boots. Neon orange, ankle boots against a grey, rainy sky in mid January in Texas. I hoped I would run into you somewhere.
It was like magic when I opened the door to my freshman drama class, to discover the chairs in a circle and you were sitting in one. Your shoulder length blond hair hanging like a delicate curtain around your chocolate diamond eyes that sparkled with life.
I was so shy, I had no idea how to even begin to talk to you. All I thought about was being eighteen and only into my second semester of college. It has already been a tough first semester. I almost didn’t come back because of how rough it had been. I was having such a difficult time making friends, and my roommate situation was a nightmare. We were two completely different people with such differing ideals, I was under the impression that the campus roommate matchmaker had been drunk when she paired us together. Also, my dreams of being a doctor went up in smoke when I got my grades over the Christmas break:
Integrative Biology I – D+
Biology Lab – B-
Introduction to Psychology – C-
Calculus I – D+
Writing Workshop – C-
I was not meant to go into medicine, which sent me into a downward spiral of depression during those few weeks. I kept trying to hide it from everyone, including my family. No one needed to know just how much I thought myself a failure at this point.
But when I saw you, that bleak and dark day felt a little brighter as I felt your inherent magnetism. Despite my own shyness, I walked on over, my books clutched to my chest in a white-knuckled anxiety on approaching you. I saw someone out of the corner of my eye, and I panicked, thinking that I would miss my chance. But I got lucky as she took another seat a few away from yours. Elation flooded my blood as I was closing in more and more, closer and closer to you. Maybe this would be my chance.
Finally, I took the seat next to yours, but that elation gave way back to anxiety. What was I going to say to you? Does this look weird? Oh God, why did I think this was a good idea? Now I look like an idiot, and I have to sit next to you for the entire semester!
Then I looked down at those bright, neon orange boots.
I managed to stammer, “Hi… I like your boots.”
Then I remember that bedazzling smile that washed away the grey of that dark morning. It felt so warm I wasn’t sure if that was meant for me. But you thanked me with that brilliant smile and started to talk to me. Elation again. A smile on my own face. What was this? Was I feeling something… different than my own anxiety, my own dark abyss that I fell into? Who are you, good man? Who am I, even, to receive that smile of yours?
And you’re continuing to talk to me? Me, laced in my own weirdness like a straightjacket, and yet you don’t seem to be deterred when I talk about heavy metal music….
Again, who are you? And why do you smile like that? Can you teach me?
I kept telling myself be careful, tread lightly, say the right thing and maybe he’ll speak to you again. Maybe you can have a friend if you don’t screw this up.
What amazed me more is that you continued the conversation after the class has ended. We continued to talk about music, concerts, other classes…. I can’t explain to you how happy in that moment I was that there was someone who was somewhat like me. But you weren’t afraid of it: I was. Perhaps you could sense that. Maybe that’s why you pulled me to you that day. You had something to show me, and all I could do was follow.
We went to concerts together, and when you dared to introduce me to your own friends, I have to tell you I was more than terrified. But I then realized they were just as weird as me, just as open, accepting, and warm with me as you when we first met. Some of us are still friends to this day.
Again, who are you, and what did I do to deserve this gift from you?
We went to parties together and talk before, during, and after that class where we met. You told me about your boyfriends and girlfriends. I would tell you about my woeful singledom and laugh about it.
I have to tell you, my grades went up that semester. Whether I can credit you with that or not, I’m not sure. I’m sure you played a part in it, but I won’t tell anyone….
So you can imagine what it was like when I heard you were dead.
Cancer. Deep in the brain. Not found until it was too late.
What was I going to do? Who was going to go to concerts with me? What was going to happen without you to act as the glue between this new group of friends? Was I going to be an afterthought now, because I had only been in this group for a few months?
When would I ever see those neon orange boots again?
I still wake up sometimes and hope that your death was just a dream and I’ll meet up with you for a drink again… that we’ll meet up for another concert and live out our days being old friends going to see Rob Zombie. That I would be able to return the kindness that you once showed me when I had nowhere else to go.
Who were you, my friend, and where did you go? My shelter, my beacon of light, my song that called me…. Did you own song call you home? That’s alright. That’s more than alright. We all have to go home one day. I just hope that one day when I come back home, that we can share what we’ve been doing again, go see one more metal band…
I want to tell you how important you were to me, and your own impact on my life. I hope this is enough to let you know that you saved me. And I can’t thank you enough. I can’t thank you enough for wearing those orange boots.
Never stop wearing those orange boots.