Another pile of days passes, another year without you. You were fifteen when I last saw you, smack in the prime of your teenage years. Today would be your nineteenth birthday. Nineteen. No longer a boy. A man.
I miss you. I wish so badly that we were still together. I would give anything.
I’m aware that the aftereffects may be torturous, but I am going to grant myself the chance to imagine you coming home for your birthday this year. I will close my eyes and make myself a movie. I’m going to imagine you as a man…
You walk in the door.
You hug me, wrapping your long arms tight around me. They gave you time off work, and you took time away from school.
“Hi Papa.” Oh, how I love that you still call me Papa.
Goodness, when did you become so tall?! You look… different – somehow… but I can’t place my finger on exactly what the changes are. Your eyes still have that spark in them. That smile is still the same. That laugh!
You launch into accounts of your latest escapades; about how you’ve found that special someone to canoodle with – how you shared a kiss with them. You tell me tales of hauling-ass down a prairie gravel road with the pedal to the floor in an old dirty brown Camaro, bowls of dust clouding the horizon behind you. You reveal how scared you were when you dove out of that plane last month. Then there’s the yarns about you and your friends during your travels in the East. Stories of slamming headfirst into cold ocean waves. Accounts of heroic climbs to dizzying heights. Descriptions of songs you’ve been working on. Wow! You’ve done so much. You’ve had so many life experiences. You’ve really been living!
You head out the door to bring your backpack in from your car… and you’re gone.
* * *
My daydream dissolves. He’s gone. The house is empty. Reality seeps in, and brings with it a familiar hurt. I’m alone again.
The bright screen of the laptop stings my blurry vision. I’m wearing his headphones – those noise-cancelling ones that deliver every slap of bass and depth of hum with such clarity. One of his favorite songs is playing: the Stars ‘Your Ex-lover is Dead’. Some of the lyrics seem to fit my current state, some seem more pertinent to Jasper’s time in treatment. I remember him singing along to the tune. “Live through this and you won’t look back.” I prop my head up and run a hand through my hair. I’m immediately reminded of what his hair felt like in my hands. I remember him.
I afford myself a deep breath. Perhaps it is a fruitless exercise to imagine him as a man now, attempting to deduce what his dreams, hopes and aspirations would be.
I am fortunate to still hear his voice singing along to the Stars. I’m lucky to be able to recall the feeling of his hair in my hands. It’s through memories like these that I’m still able to connect with him. Although the years pass by and time advances on for me, Jasper will eternally be that handsome, laughing, skinny teenage boy. Fifteen forever. Happy Birthday, Jasper. I love you.