He never said hi. Fourteen years later, I now realize it’s because he didn’t know how, not because he saw through me (maybe he did anyway).

He hid behind her, behind his music, his anchors, his safe place, the very things that sustained him in a very terrible, lonely existence. Like that man searching for an oasis in a desert, he searched in the wrong direction from the start.

I read snippets of his letters to other people, people who mattered a great deal to him: his wife, his father, the two driving forces in his life — for better or worse. He called her the “best thing to happen” to him. He called his father a goddamned socialist who never loved him.

They both abandoned him at different times, making it clear he was the problem, he was their burden to bear. All I saw were stars in his eyes when he would lift his head up from whatever they forced on him, or when he escaped into the brilliant light of his music.

The night we met since their split, I wondered which person would show up: the hidden figure, or someone more like me. His sister and I waited at a P.F. Chang’s in the mall to help him with his Christmas shopping two years ago, after his world collapsed for a second time.

He suddenly appeared in mid-conversation, as if he’d only stepped away for a bathroom break. “… You schooled me,” he smiled. I couldn’t breathe. Then, he quietly opened up about the years that had taken parts of him away, the years with the best thing that ever happened to him.

Physically, we still remained awkward, even though I’d poured out my heart to him in online letters and once, over the phone. He didn’t know how to be, and I was afraid of scaring him away.

But when he hugged me goodbye, and hello, and goodbye again, I met him for the first time, this bright, shining beacon of expectation and experience.

It’s not an apology. But it’s close enough.


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