After my first year at university I decided to take a gap year. I had quickly realized I had chosen the wrong studies, only to switch to another subject that did not suit me either. I needed the time to find out what I wanted to do with my life.
As it had been a longstanding dream of mine to become an actress, I registered for the preliminary program of the Academy of Performing Arts, granting myself the time to find out whether that dream was worth pursuing. I also took on a job at a call center. It was there that we met.
Though not a career job, helping people with their internet connections was fun enough at the time. There were loads of young people at the work floor, and the customers were generally happy ones. They had a problem – I helped them. I got asked out by them on a number of occasions, the most memorable one being by an older man who had lost his wife a year previously and missed someone to go to the ballet with – would I not join him? And I even got proposed to at two times. I do admit that at one of those times I was recovering from a cold which left me with a very husky and apparently sexy voice. That was a good day to work a phone job.
The most important thing in this job was that you had to be good with people, which is not a gift bestowed on everyone. As such there were always a lot of people going out and new ones coming in, and then one day he was there. Sitting at the desk across from me, I heard him speak into his headset:
‘Are my colleagues nice, you ask? Well yes there are, very nice in fact. Really very nice.’ I looked up to him staring me straight in the eyes, a lopsided grin on his face and his right eyebrow pulled up slightly.
We kissed at a work party a week later. He smelled like horses and work. He took me to the movies, where we kissed again. We kissed in his car, and in the stairwells at work.
Then after a few weeks I left the job and moved to the other side of the country to continue my studies, and we didn’t keep in touch. About two months after that his status on the social networking site of that time changed. It was his sister, thanking everyone for the love and support. For those they had not been able to reach: Joey was dead, the funeral would be the day after.
It hit me like a sledgehammer. I would have never seen him again, but the fact that a mere weeks before we had been lovers, while now I had no way of even knowing what happened to him had a big impact. To all the people that he had mattered to I was nothing, non-existent. So I sat in my room and cried for a day, until my best friend talked me into going out for a drink and if nothing else at least share my grief.
Of course I got over it. That’s life. The interesting thing is that by now he would have long faded in my memory, but through dying he was immortalized. He was the first person I knew that died young, who wasn’t supposed – and not ready – to go.
Now, many years later, every time I am unhappy with how my day went, or the work I’m doing, the choices I made or the relations I have, I remember Joey and reconsider my options. What do I have to change to feel different tomorrow?
Thanks to Joey, I know now that days are presents too precious to look at back at with regret or resentment. You never know how many more you’ll get.
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