i rode down a familiar road last week. the last time i was there, i was in the jeep with michael. it was summer. the wind was warm and it covered me like a blanket. we laughed at my hair blowing in the wind and he told me stories i'd never heard before. i met his grandparents, who are from holland, and felt blessed to see this side of him that in all our years of friendship, he'd not shared. i hurt him by rejecting him when we were younger. it took us a long time to get back to this place. we were aimless that night, but he was calm. he was different when we weren't around everyone else. i can still feel the wind on my face. i know exactly where i was and what it felt like to be in that moment.
but i lost sight of that night soon after. i became a friend i would never want to have. michael's depression became overbearing. we didn't want to deal with it. we stopped inviting him to dinner, and declined invitations to do things together because we thought he was such a downer. and he was. but it wasn't his fault. and a real friend would've cared enough to try to help him make it through it. i was not a real friend to michael.
the last time i saw him, he was lying on my living room floor. we were all wasted, and we'd made our way back inside to the air conditioning. michael was lying on his back staring at my ceiling. "when you come back to me again" came on. and he sang it at the top of his lungs. we laughed and laughed, although it's not a funny song. i wish now i hadn't laughed. that song and its lyrics break my heart to hear it today. he was reaching out, in so many ways. and i did worse than not extending my open hand...i had his hand, but i let it go.
and so michael brantley, 21 years old having just started his own business, lost hope. put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. called me just before. and i didn't answer. it's enough to make me wish...well...i didn't feel worthy of life when i heard the news. i'm sorry, michael. it's worthless now, i know. but i didn't tell you how much i loved you and how much our friendship really did mean to me. i didn't thank you for riding 4 wheelers and cooking dinner and making CDs and doing me favors and believing me when no one else would. i will always be sorry for not being there when you needed me most. i will never, ever forgive myself for it. i can only hope that now you are in the sun, living without any darkness.
On a prayer, in a song
I hear your voice and
It keeps me hanging on
Against the wind
I'm reaching out till
We reach the circle's end
When you come
Back to me again