I keep looking for Tyler. Sometimes on the street I try to see him in other people, to force him to be present. I keep wandering into his room, opening drawers and cabinets, looking under the bed, in weird corners…desperately trying to find some trace of him. I keep expecting to find a note, telling me everything is fine. I keep expecting he’ll walk in the door, short of breath from running up four flights of stairs, and say “Bonjour” in his heavily accented French.
All that he left before moving back to the states is an Xbox with two games, old jeans too tattered to give away, and his Star Wars music box. On Sunday I picked up the little box decorated with images of a galaxy, and I turned the tiny handle, and listened to it twinkle out the theme to Star Wars.
In the kitchen there is a shot glass he bought in Amsterdam, some penne pasta he never finished eating, and a can of very off-brand tomato sauce. There is Neosporin and cream to diminish the look of scars, hiding under the bathroom sink. In my room I have some paperwork we were working on for the French government, and mail I continue to receive about renewing his subscriptions to various organisations. On my desk is the birthday card he gave me.
Sometimes I look at certain objects in our house and an array of memories hits me in the face. Moments we shared by the window, or at the table, or trying to cook dinner simultaneously in our very tiny kitchen. Sometimes I look, and it’s the absence of certain objects that I notice first. His overflowing laundry basket, his PHISH sticker on his computer, hair gel, toothbrush, button down shirts hanging with the curtains.
I felt his absence when he moved out four weeks ago, as I sent Snapchats of his empty room and the coffee machine making coffee for one, and not two. Now his absence is permanent and all of the blank spaces in our apartment are more hollow. I’ve been unable to use his room as extra space. It’s remained “Tyler’s Room” even though there is no Tyler anywhere now; not in Paris, not in Buffalo, not on earth.
Even as I type these words, they feel fake. I feel like I am writing a fiction. This is most unfortunately not the first time I have lost someone close to me, not the first time it happened unexpectedly, not the first time it happened too soon, and not the first time I’ve been far away. I am so strangely accustomed to grieving. I am so strangely accustomed to loss.
What is remarkable is the number of people Tyler made into his friends. His ability to strike up a conversation with any person, about any thing meant he was never alone. He made more friends in France in eight months than I’ve made in almost three years. The amount of messages on his facebook page, wishing him eternal peace, is striking. Almost every single one is accompanied with a picture. How lucky could any one else hope to be, to inspire that much love?
Tyler’s fearlessness left me in awe many times. I’m not sure I could ever move to a country where I didn’t speak the language. Tyler’s lack of French skills didn’t stop him from doing anything though. He entered every situation, his tall, smiling, American self, with a pizazz that I can only describe as Tyler-esque.
Grieving requires such an odd mixture of privacy and community. I may attempt to write more about my roommate that I will share but I cannot be for certain. I am filtering through so many memories, as I continue to live in our apartment, and through messages on so many electronic devices.