“A LIFE LIVED”
“My twelfth birthday,” said Megan Span, pressing that sealed envelope into David Bellman’s hand, “but only because my mom says I have to invite you.”
David understood just fine. Girls like Megan were in love with boys like Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb, and Leif Garrett. A boy like David Bellman, well he’d probably end up the booby prize for some fat girl with a lazy eye and a fondness for garlic.
“You have to go,” David’s mother told him. “It’s not polite to turn down an invitation.”
Saturday afternoon found ten girls and six boys all squeezed into the Span family basement. Stephanie Kelso suggested games of spin the bottle.
“You have to play,” Stephanie demanded after David tried to back out. “That’s the rule.”
“Fine,” the boy huffed, giving the Pepsi bottle a quick turn.
Megan rolled her eyes and leaned in for her kiss. “No French, either,” she ordered, tucking loose strands of blond hair behind her ears.
David met her above the bottle, pressed his lips to hers – not at all different from the sort of kiss he’d given his mother and grandmother a hundred times. But this one felt softer, tasted of bubblegum-flavored lip gloss.
Megan’s blue-eyed gaze fixed onto the boy for just a lingering moment. “Maybe,” she said, soft enough to be a whisper.
“Maybe what?” David demanded to know this possibility, this potential.
Do you like me? Circle YES or NO.
David circled yes on the note Megan handed him on the school bus the following Monday morning.
Four years later, sweet sixteen and Megan made promises. The back seat of David’s Camaro provided the setting. Those kisses ran deeper by then – the sort of kisses that swore to be forever.
But David’s the one who backed down. “Not like this,” he said. “Not in a car.”
Megan traded a nod for his rejection.
Senior prom. Young couples danced to the Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, Cutting Crew.
David slipped a whisper into Megan’s ear, told of a room waiting for them at the Benchmark Hotel – if she wanted it.
Kisses turned to touching, touching became the giving away of that thing neither could ever take back – no matter what.
“I’m late,” Megan said a week after graduation.
“Late for what?” David asked.
A playful punch to his shoulder put the boy right.
“What about college?” he wondered aloud.
“You can still go – if you want.”
Megan’s parents paid for the small wedding; her father hired David on at the auto dealership.
The ultrasound showed it there on that tiny screen. There were no arms or legs or head; no tears of joy.
There would never be a baby.
Instead of baby names being bandied about, words like malignant and metastasized filled the small examination room.
Chemo made her hair come out in clumps. Knives scarred her body.
“Move forward,” she told David in those last quiet moments. “Don’t you die, too.”
A hole opened in him just wide enough for part of his soul to escape.
He’d never see that hole close up, either. Wounds like this just don’t heal.
Stephanie Kelso held his hand at the funeral, kept him from tumbling into the open ground.
“Life will never be the same,” David lamented once the service ended.
Stephanie said, “It never is – when somebody dies. That’s part of the deal.”
David fixed on her blue eyes, found a familiar comfort there. “Think maybe you might wanna go for a cup of coffee?”
by Beem Weeks