Matt got really sick later that January. He called me while I was walking to work one Saturday. He said, "Now don't freak out, but I have leukemia."
He told me a little bit about it. Then I changed the subject. I lied and said I was at work and getting into the elevator. I am not very good with these things.
I went to see him as soon as possible at the hospital. He had every nurse wrapped around his little finger. One of them brought him some M&Ms. I brought him a stack of books, and we joked about putting chocolate milk into his IV.
Through his illness I tried to see him as much as possible, a lot at first. As he got better, we settled back into our old visiting routines from college, once every few months. When he went in remission I just didn't think we could run out of time. Slowly he started getting sick again. He called me every time there was an update, and I never knew what to say. I would stammer and stutter and then rattle on about my problems asking him for advice about my life. I told myself that he knew me well enough to know that this was my way of avoiding the truth, my way of coping.
He died on a Sunday. I had gone home to Rhode Island to see him that weekend, and decided to take a later train back to New York than originally planned. He had been too sick to see that morning, but I decided to hang around for a while, so I drove out to the big sand pit by Exit 6. I was standing there when his family called and said if I wanted to come over, I should come over now. I took the long way there.
When I got there the house was full. I was told he was in his room with his parents and girlfriend, Hannah. All the family and friends were milling about and no one was going in, so I sat in the kitchen and waited. An hour passed. We were playing Boogle. Hannah called me from his bedroom, asking me where I was, if I had arrived, saying Matt was asking where I was. I ran from the kitchen to his room, he was lying on his bed, skin and bones, breathing heavily and sweating. I remembered his mother saying, "Bonnie is here Matthew" and Octopus's Garden was playing softly in the background. I told him I was there, held his hand and put cold wash cloths on his forehead, I didn't know what else to do. He couldn't speak, but he moved his fingers in my hand. No one spoke, we just sat there, all of us around his bed.
Someone else came in and I felt guilty, like I was hogging time at his bedside. I went back to the kitchen, and told everyone my parents were worried and expecting me home for dinner and I would be back later that night. I ran out and sped home. Twenty minutes later one of our friends called me and told me it was over, he was gone. I had left and never gone back. I went out that night and got drunk, I didn't know what else to do. I wanted something normal to happen to me.
I used to be angry at him for leaving me, but not anymore. I hope he isn’t upset with me for all the selfish things I did, or for ever using his death as an excuse. We were best friends for so long because he never could hold a grudge, even though I tend to hang on them. Even if it is self-inflicted.