Sometimes I get to thinking too much about things. One of the things I think about a lot is Nate Miller. It’s not that I go out of my way to think about him–it’s just that I spent a few formative years with him and a lot of the things I love and that define who I am are a result of his presence in my life. Because of that, I am often reminded of him when I hear certain songs, see certain things or do certain activities.
I was thinking of him a lot at the end of last month, as I always do around his birthday. And I had fun on facebook posting my favorite Nate memories. Like the time he grabbed my butt in a dark photo processing closet. Or the time we spoke only in haiku for an entire day. Or the time he tried to cross a river by shimmying along a tree branch and fell in. In January. And had to walk a mile back to the car through the snow with soaked clothes. Or the time a hobo stopped us on the street and asked if we were in love and then recited a poem to us that he had written.
I remember the bad parts, too…it’s not always happy memories. All the fights we had. His jealous streak that prevented me from hanging out with guy friends if he wasn’t around. His stubbornness. My stubbornness. Our breakup. Our final conversation.
I guess what I am getting at is that there is a constant stream of memories attached to him floating through my head. Usually they are very vague. Recently, though, I was looking through old pictures I found on an unmarked cd in a shoebox. There is a picture of Nate and Joe Ozinga on it. I don’t know who took the picture or why I have it, but it had a weird effect on me. I looked at that picture and in an instant so many things came flooding back. I could hear his voice clearly in my head. I could remember the way he smelled, what it felt like to hug him, how soft his hair was, how scratchy his beard felt. I remembered the callouses on his fingers and heard his laugh and remembered all the times he played the guitar while I sat nearby silently and drew pictures. I remembered things about him I had forgotten. I don’t know why this picture did it for me, but it was a total sensory overload.
My dad died shortly after Nate did, and even though it might sound awful, Nate’s death affected me far more. Maybe it was because I wasn’t close to my dad before he died. But I think it’s because my dad was sick for a long time and I was expecting it to happen. Nate’s death was so sudden and so tragically violent that I wasn’t able to process it. It hit so close to home and didn’t make sense to me at all. Our last conversation was rushed because I was trying to get out the door to go somewhere, so I hurried him off the phone. I still haven’t fully forgiven myself for that and I think that’s why I still think about it so much. At the time I didn’t understand that he was saying goodbye.
Anyway, over the years it’s given me a lot to think about. It makes me rethink the way I handle my friendships and relationships. How I need to make time for people I care about. How I need to not take anyone for granted. Nate was better to me than I was able to realize at the time, and I know I wasn’t the best girlfriend. I can only try to be better and love others the way they deserve to be loved. I need to be a good friend and show the people who are important to me that they mean so much. I plan on doing that. I plan on taking these memories and putting them to good use by making my life worthwhile and happy. And the next time I find myself in love with someone, I will let them know how important they are. I didn’t do that enough last time.
The picture in question, by the way :)