When I bought this tuxedo, I didn’t care how much it cost. I did not look at the tag, nor the brand. As soon as I put it on, Anthony looked at me in awe. “It’s what I imagined my best man would look like. It’s perfect.” He said. And so I aimlessly put the tuxedo on my credit card, not caring what I would be paying later. This moment was his, not mine.
Never for a second did I think I would wear this for his funeral.
I never had the chance to wear it next to him in the chapel. I was at work when I found out. I had to leave the call center because the customers heard me sobbing over their complains about their health care plans. I immediately broke down in my cubicle, then tossed the keyboard across the room. My manager came to escort me out, but I was out the door before he could approach me. I remember crying in the back alley, asking God for an answer.
Anthony was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He dedicated his whole life to making the world a better place. When I met him as a kid, I kicked his lemonade stand over because I thought it was stupid that I had to pay a quarter. But when he told me that the money he collected would help his family adopt a kid in Africa, I helped him rebuild his stand, then ran home to break open my Batman coin jar. I gave him all $13.75 I had in there to find his new brother or sister. I was too young to understand that they were not ‘actually’ adopting a kid, rather, sponsoring them by sending them money for food and supplies. In high school, people made fun of him because he was the leader of every club that everyone else tried to avoid- Interact Club, Key Club, UNICEF, Amnesty International among the few. By the age of 18, he established his own non-profit that collected used jeans to be sown into new clothes for the homeless. When he graduated from college, he used his medical degree to volunteer as a doctor in Africa.
He was not just my friend. He was my brother. He was my hero.
I was too focused in being a success that I neglected to call him every week as we planned. I’d always tell myself that we had time. When I finally reached out to him after not talking for months, I convinced him to move back to San Diego. I wanted my best friend back. I went 835 days without seeing him; I now have to count higher every day.
I was selfish. I promised him that I would pick him up from the airport when he landed, but I couldn’t get the day off from work. The night before he boarded the airplane, he called me to tell me how excited he was to see me. I was on a date and told him I had to go. I did not see him until a week after he landed, when he told me about wedding plans. I was so busy that I was the last to find out.
Now I will be the last to leave.
I still can’t believe that Anthony is in this black box. A part of me thinks that this is all a bad dream, and that I would wake up the morning of his wedding.
But this was the reality. He isn’t coming back. Not now. Not ever. All I have is a tuxedo and speech I would never read.
Before I notice it, I had fallen asleep. Half of my tux is stained green from the grass, while the cuffs are muddied from the soil. For a fraction of a second, I forget where I am. I still believe this is a dream, and that my phone will ring for Anthony to tell me one of his stupid stories about mosquitoes. But there is no ring. There is only silence.
And just like that, the sun rises, and casts a shadow from his tombstone.
It points at me.