Michael could vividly remember the first time he met Jeremy. The way the playground felt as though it doubled as a battle field, the overwhelming pressure to befriend his classmates. The encouragements to play with the same kids that’d spent the past year pushing him off the swings. He could still picture Jeremy Heere forcing him from his self-imposed exile underneath the jungle gym to climb the monkey bars with him. He could still relish in the memory of what it felt like to finally have a friend.
Michael never forgot the struggle they faced climbing their way from the bottom of the social hierarchy all through middle school and in to high school. He would smile recalling how they set it aside when they came home, how they camped out in his backyard on weekends armed with 2 liters of Dew, flashlights, and the latest edition of their favorite comics; the way they'd get stoned in his basement and play Army of the Damned until sunrise - how his world lit up with every smile from his best friend.
Michael could remember holding Jeremy in his arms the day his mother left; the warmth that surrounded him as Jeremy clutched at his shirt, the piercing sound of his sobs. He could still see the tears that trickled down his red, puffy cheeks. His fingers still felt damp from the hours spent carefully wiping them away. His stomach could still conjure up the sensation of fluttering butterflies elicited from the way Jeremy turned his glassy, icy blue eyes up to him and cuddled closer.
Michael remembered the fear he’d had and the way Jeremy embraced him the day he came out. He could hear Jeremy telling him that he was his favorite person and that they’d always be a team. He could still feel Jeremy's breath on his ear as he whispered reassurances and the way the scent of apples clung to Jeremy’s hair as he buried his face among the soft, brown locks. He could still feel impact of realizing he'd fallen in love.
Michael could never forget the gut-wrenching ache he'd had the day Jeremy pulled away from him. The way his heart constricted and his breaths labored at being ditched in the mall. His mind could replay every single moment spent in the bathroom on Halloween night when Jeremy pushed him away for the final time. He could still relive the sting of the word “Loser” every time he dragged the blade across his skin.
Michael remembered his last day alive. The taste of the cinnamon pancakes his mom had made, the echoing of his heaving as he emptied them in to the toilet. The pitter patter of water as it filled the tub, the splash of it sloshing over the sides. He could recall that his last thought after running the razor down his forearms, right before the darkness took him, was of how Jeremy’s freckles were sprinkled across the bridge of his nose like constellations in the night sky.