It’s been literally a lifetime that you’ve been gone, and I still feel like you were here only yesterday.
Funny how the memories and the love you have for someone can stay so vividly in your mind when they’re gone from your life forever. Like an old black and white film that replays whenever you call it to memory. Losing you in this life has been the single most painful thing that I have had to endure. Something I've never really made peace with or tried to let go of. For years I thought that moving on without you would be like pretending you never existed, so I kept both the joys of our memories and the pain of your death very much alive inside of me. I guess it was my way of somehow keeping you close. Remembering was always painful but forgetting you would be like my own death in real life. So truthfully, I couldn't do either very well.
They say that with time all wounds heal. I cannot tell you how painfully untrue that is. In fact, it's a down-right lie. It's just something folks say to make others feel better in the moment. Over the years I will admit that I wish I could have forgotten you, simply because it kills me to remember you. But you never forget your first love nor should you forget the person that taught you more about life in the 19 short years that he lived than anyone ever has.
To be honest, I’ve never felt worthy of even mentioning your name out loud since your death, because as you know I have always felt very much to blame for it happening at all. I've asked you for forgiveness and cried to you in the darkness a billion times but never felt at peace. I've tried to keep you here with me and in turn, I've never allowed you your eternal peace either. I suppose this is one of the reasons for this letter to you today, to ask for forgiveness one last time, and to let you know what in life I never had the courage to say. So I pray that today God will lay these words upon your ears, somewhere in heaven, because I need to finally say goodbye. I need to make peace with us and our past if I have any possible hope of finding peace and happiness in my own life.
I remember everything about us, you know. The way we met at our high school dance. The way you spent the next week that followed, looking in every classroom door window on 3 floors, trying to find me, and the look in your eyes when you finally did. The way you would mad dash from each of your classes so you could run to mine before it ended –just so you could walk with me to the next one. All those stupid dandelion flowers you would bring me at lunch because you thought that I needed something pretty each day and couldn’t afford to get me roses. (I loved them, you know. I know you always felt silly because I always laughed when you brought them. However, I giggled not to make fun of you, but to keep from crying over how incredibly adorable you were.)
I remember how upset you would get at other guys making rude or sexual comments toward me under their breath. How you’d come to defend my honor and tell them: “She’s not like that! This is one girl you treat as a lady-always” The way you would get on a bus each and every day after school, to make sure that I got all the way home okay (when you, yourself only lived across the street from the school) It would literally take you 40 minutes round trip to take me and get back home yourself and yet you didn’t care.
I remember how the two of us got our very first part-time jobs in the same mall so that we could have more time together. (How silly we both looked in those red uniforms)
The moment when you surprised me at one of our school dances with a beautiful Amethyst ring-just for me. The one you saw me “secretly” admiring from afar for months. You saved up all your money just to get it for me. I will never forget that moment in all my life. It was my very first promise ring. (To this day, I wear and keep Amethyst jewelry and healing stones around me every day. It is the reason that purple is one of my most favorite colors in all the world. ) We danced to our song “Season’s Change” by Expose because it held so much meaning for us. You said: “This ring means that I love you and always will-because you’re the only one I want to grow old with” Although, it’s a silly thing to say at 15, I always felt in my heart that you meant every word.
Then, like the song, seasons did change and I allowed fear to enter our lives. There were people all around us that didn’t accept our relationship or understood our love. It challenged us in so many ways and I allowed it to cloud my own judgment. Throughout it all, you never altered or changed who you were with me. Your love was still undying and forever mine. Sadly, I was weak and very much afraid. I let both my family and friends get in my head and they convinced me to give you up. I couldn't deal with all the fights you were a part of because of me, because of our relationship. It just got too hard and I left you. I told you I didn't love you and that what we had just couldn't work. But none of that was true. I think deep down inside you knew that my hand was being forced, which is why you kept trying to convince me that all I needed was you. But at 15, what did I know about love or the world. I knew what I felt and how strongly it coursed through my body but, I was no match for what my family and friends wanted. I was blinded by the hate, blinded by the fear that racism brought into our lives, and I will never forget the pain I caused us both when it was all said and done. So, I did the only thing I could to keep you safe, I left you.
I want you to know that to this day I have never forgotten the look on your face when our relationship came to an end. All that pain, all that disappointment in your eyes, it broke me. You walked away and at that moment, my heart cracked. All I wanted to do was come after you. All I wanted was you. Instead, I just stood there and did nothing. I allowed you to believe that you weren't worthy of me.
The next few years to follow were so difficult. We both went through so many changes because of that one moment in time. All of which were damaging. You changed because of me-as did I. I feel as though I single-handedly took our innocence away and will never feel any differently. You became this rebel, defying anything and anyone in your path. I, well I became lost and would forever remain love’s suicide.
We both went through countless empty relationships-never again finding what you and I once had. If I'm being truthful, I've never loved anyone the same way as I loved you. Maybe in some way, it is the reason why none of my relationships have ever worked out. Perhaps I self-sabotaged them all, feeling that I was never really worthy of real love after ending what we had, the way I did. It would certainly explain the countless, toxic, and abusive relationships I did manage to get into. I stayed with them all. Too afraid to leave, too afraid to find better or claim my worth because I honestly believed that I was being punished for what I did to you.
You couldn’t bear to look at me for years. To be honest I could barely look at myself. You became so cynical when it came to women and love and I’m truly sorry for that. You will never really know how much.
The very last memory I share with you in this life was sitting together in your Aunt’s donut shop in late summer, of 1991. It was the first time since our breakup that we actually sat together and talked. We spoke nothing of the past, or the future, but shared a moment that I will never forget. God, we must have sat there for hours just staring at one another and you holding my hand. I remember how easy it was being with you again, in that moment. I recall my hands being cold for some reason, and you instinctively took them in yours. We both looked at each other and laughed, remembering a moment when we were together, where you once said that it was your job to keep me safe and warm. It was funny how we both recalled that memory at the same time. We sat a little while longer, then we left and I never saw you again. You died a month later. I hated you for dying. I hated God for allowing it to happen. But most of all, I hated myself for wasting so much time. Time we could have had.
You died performing motorcycle stunts for your gang, late one Saturday night. Showing off for people who barely knew your worth. A motorcycle and friends that maybe you would never have had if we had still been together. It wasn't supposed to end like that. We were older now, 19. We were supposed to meet up and talk again, to TRY AGAIN! But no, it wasn't ever really meant to be.
Nael (Nick), you will never truly know the emptiness that I have carried around with me, all these years since your death. If I am being honest, a big part of me died right along with you. I've carried around so much pain and guilt for leaving you and not making things right when I had the chance. Although it was never my choice to let you go, I allowed others to define my life. If I had been stronger, then perhaps your life could have taken a different turn and you'd still be here.
Sadly, you will forever be my greatest regret in life, and you cannot possibly understand how sorry I am that this is so. But, as much as this is true, I am finally trying to let this go. The 46-year-old lady I am today is working very hard to forgive the 15-year-old girl I was and all the dumb choices she made. But, we were both kids and dumb choices go with the territory, so forgiveness is key. All these years I have been waiting for some sort of sign to know that you forgave me for all I did but now, I realize that it wasn't your forgiveness I needed - because I always had it. The forgiveness I needed was mine.
I wish I could have told you that I loved you, the last time I saw you. I wish I could have said I'm sorry, one more time. And although I hated you for leaving me here alone, you gave me the chance to be with you once last time at that coffee shop. Thinking back now, that was God's way of bringing us back together, like we used to be, one last time. It was his gift and a true blessing. I know now that the visit we shared that day was the silent "I love you's" and the "I forgive you's" and of course the "I'm sorrys" that we needed, to make peace before you left this earth. I am so grateful for that moment. But, it took a very long time to see it.
I want you to know that I am so blessed and grateful that God loved me that much to bring you into my life. Although you left so soon, at least I had you for a little while. You were one of my greatest gifts that he gave me.
I know you know this from wherever you stand today, but I wanted you to hear it all from me: I love you, I’ve always loved you. All the things that I believe in today are somehow mirrored by who you were in this life. I hate no-one, I judge no-one. My heart is simple and pure and has no home for racism of any kind within it. Racism has no presence in my life, nor do I associate myself with anyone who lives by its dictation.
You were the only man who ever knew exactly how I want to be loved - even at 15. And I look for that love, that sweetness, that romantic and gentlemanly nature you had in every man I meet. I know now it is what I have always deserved and will never again settle for anything less. Although there will never be anyone like you again, I hope you can pray for me and give me the strength and courage to live like the girl I was with you. I want to find her again. I want to find that love again. I think I'm finally ready.
Until I see you again, my sweet man.
R.I.P. Nael (Nick) N, M, K, Ayoub