He was introduced to us as John. Eventually we called him Johnny, or Johnsy. For the first month of school, I, for some reason, called him Rob. He was the second person I met at college and I couldn’t get his name right.
Little things like that are the memories that make someone live forever. Whenever I think of George Michael (which happens more than I’d care to admit), I’ll think of John and their matching perpetual five o’clock shadows. If I watch professional wrestling, I’ll think of John and all of his terrible wrestling shirts. When I see hair-care products, I think of John and his enormous collection of bottles and sprays all dedicated to the betterment of every hair on his head.
These days John hides in the peripherals. He lives in the wristbands we all wear bearing his name. He lives in our instant messenger profiles. He lives in the small Hope Tree growing behind the library. I still have his number in my cell phone; his screen name is still on my buddy list. These things, souvenirs really, are just the footprint of the impact he had on our lives. But even so, his presence today is still undeniable.
March 25 was the beginning of a series of horrors. Our lives, our spirits and our campus were invaded. Gloom spread and settled itself everywhere. Speculation tore at us whenever we heard it and the press encouraged it wherever they went. Rumors, police interviews, press coverage and schoolwork piled up, and sometimes the weight was too much.
In 19 years of life I have never been angrier or sadder than I was that month. It reached its apex one Wednesday night in Media Ethics, when Professor Cole centered his lesson on all of the media coverage of John. For three hours I was bombarded by Nancy Grace and The Trentonian and all of the rumors students knew and I could do nothing except sink lower and lower into my chair.
And after all of the horrors, after all of our nightmares came true and they found him, we are left without really knowing what happened or why our friend was taken away. John’s death, the reason for all of what we went through, is in a case file in an office somewhere. That is a horror in itself. We are left one year later without any reason or explanation for why this happened.
And we are left one year later with hope trees and bracelets and profiles, with memories that at the time seemed insignificant. These are the things that really matter. John wasn’t my best friend. I was not anywhere near as close with him as were the other people on this page. He was someone I knew, someone I considered a friend, someone I could hang out with and talk to, but he was also someone I took for granted.
Despite that, despite knowing him for only a little over half a year, his impact on my life is immeasurable. I never realized it before, but I know now that every single person in my life is invaluable; every moment shared is priceless. John taught me that.
At the beginning of last year I could barely remember his name. I’ll never forget it again. It’s in my thoughts every day. I miss you John.