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An old friend of mine from summer camp died unexpectedly a few weeks ago.  I found out through Facebook, of course, where his sister had asked people to upload their old photos of him.  It wasn’t until I had all my old summer camp albums stacked on the dining room table that it hit me that he was gone, really gone.

I always thought I’d run into him again.

Sometimes, people come into your life and they change you, indelibly, unexpectedly.  I remember the music, the way it infiltrated those liquid summer nights, spiraling into the warm night air and settling around my shoulders like a hug.  I remember sunlight hitting bleached blond hair, and I remember summer girls in tank tops and denim shorts, and I remember a smile that went on forever, a smile that was yours, always and only.

I remember two questions.  Questions that book-ended the years I knew him.  Questions asked carelessly, in the middle of a crowded room.  Questions that still cut to the heart of who and what I am.  I never answered either.  I didn’t understand, until many years later, that I wasn’t meant to.

You could say I had a crush on him, but that wouldn’t quite be right.  I had a crush on the idea of him.  I was too shy, too awed by his popularity, too afraid of rejection to get to know him.  When I came across him on Facebook a few years ago I friended him, but I left it at that.  I didn’t think there was enough of a connection left for us to have any kind of conversation, for me to try to meet up with him when I passed through Boston.  I wish now that I had tried.

Because most of all, I remember a boy with mischief in his smile, and love enough in his soul that it was yours for the asking.