In that moment, my mind raced to remember the last time I saw him, and just as quickly, the harsh realization stunned me that it had been over a decade since we last spoke.
10 years. A quarter of my lifetime away.
If I close my eyes, I can see him still sitting in his office, typing away - answering phone calls - and turning to talk to me about the topic at hand.
If I think hard enough, I can almost hear him hollering my name from across the room. "Goddess" was how he addressed me, referring to my self-proclaimed status.
If I reach deep down into the last 10 years worth of memories, I can still remember the way he would engage with other people; the lofty way he could joke with colleagues, the smiles he would share with the world, and his laugh. A generous laugh that he was never shy to use and couldn't help but bring a smile to your own face.
I don't remember the first time we met - but I remember it was about the time I was coming out of a dreadful relationship that had exhausted my soul and shook my faith in people. I recall nothing of that first meeting - all I know is that there was an instant familiarity. And the more we talked, the better I felt, and slowly I began climbing out of a deep hole and finding the world again. I would stop by to visit him a few times a week - sometimes just for five minutes, sometimes a few hours. But the time wasn't important. It was just joy in having someone to speak to again, someone to listen to and to share the day with. He would always greet me with the same warm smile and the same booming hello - like he truly was pleased to see me again. Even in the middle of a busy day, he never made me feel like I was a burden or a bother. It was easy to be his friend, and the simplicity of our friendship is what made it so special.
But somewhere along the line we lost touch. I suppose once I was back on my own two feet again I didn't feel the need to stop by all the time. When I started reconnecting with other old friends, there wasn't as much need for his sole companionship. We would still see each other from time to time, but time itself had other ideas and as it moved along, we moved apart. Eventually I would leave Tucson, and with that, I didn't hear from him again. I would come back for visits every once in a while, and as I walked around his workplace I would crane my neck in the hopes of catching a glimpse of him, wishing for a chance to say "hello". But I never saw him again.
Until the other day. And only then it was his photo in a Facebook post from a friend, informing me that he had died.
I've uncovered a lot of memories over the last few days; and the weight of how much time has passed actually makes them feel a little heavier. I guess I thought that the friends time moves out of your life remain adrift, aloft in a lovely memory cloud somewhere - not abruptly slammed back into your life by the notification of their death. I know that our friendship had a time and a place - and until the other day, I was very happy to leave it in the past with my happy cloud memories. But now that the reality that my once-friend is permanently gone, there is a part of me that is sorry I had forgotten how special he was until it was too late to say something.
So I suppose I'm being a bit egocentric in writing this, seeing as how it's not like he's here to read it, but I guess I'm looking for some sense of closure. So from the 29-year old Goddess through the slightly older version writing this, I want to say that I'm thankful for you. Amidst the mess that my life was at the time, and among the many talks we had about life, the future, the past, and toothbrushes, I'd like to think I told you "thank you" for all the advice, time and lunches we shared. I'd like to believe that I gave a more heartfelt and sincere expression of gratitude for our friendship than just a passing "thanks" on my way out the door. But truth be told, an entire decade later, I really just don't remember anymore. Your friendship, your smile, your laughter, and your advice made me feel better about myself at a point when I just didn't think I ever would again. And I'm sorry if I never said it before - and that all I can do is write to the ghost of a memory now. Our lives move along faster than we ever realize - and so many memories get buried under so many other memories - so I'm not going to be arrogant to assume that I ever crossed your mind once I crossed time zones, but know that in my life you made a difference.
And you will be missed.