For years I could remember his name. I am sure with enough time, I could recall it. I think it was Eric. He was a boy in my art class. Small, with red hair. He was funny too. Defensively funny, the way a small kid in the seventh grade might become. Sarcastic and smart enough to let humor be a weapon against the unfair horror that is junior high.
I remember him at all because in the seventh grade he died. His death haunted me for years, though I couldn’t say I knew him very well. It was how he died that couldn’t leave me. He was at the local water park, the kind with the large slides. The newspapers said he was likely trying to hide and stay in the park past his purchased time. He hid in the space between two slides, where the water was suctioned back up to the top of slide. He was pulled up, and drown. He wasn’t found until later that day after the park closed and he was reported missing.
I have imagined and replayed the horror of that moment when he must have known and fought his fate. I have replayed it for years. I cannot say why. I am not sure why I remember it now, this night. I only know that I am, and I felt compelled to write the memory down, remember what I could. I cannot help but think of this boy’s parents when I remember him. I want to tell them, “I haven’t forgotten either.” I was caught off guard by his death; it was tragic and unpredictable..it was the first time I had come to know that life is sometimes this way.
I remember the Monday after his burial, kids talked about the funeral. Bette Midler’s “The Rose” was played during the service, they had said. I have never since listened to that song and not thought of him, ever. Sometimes I still cry. I wonder if anyone else remembers. Remembers him. Alive and funny, with a girlfriend named Eileen. Or do they remember only how he died?
How long does the memory of one person last once they have gone? This night, thirty one years later, I am still remembering.