For Orion

And all those who pass through briefly, purposefully.

In a black, star-filled sky, the first constellation I always see is Orion.

I wave a little hello to a boy who passed away our junior year of college, suddenly, from a brain tumor.

I did not love him in that way, but in the brief time that I knew him, Orion had a deep impact on me.

Our freshman year of college, I had decided to start a poetry club. Naturally, I printed an ad and posted it around the dorms, wondering if anyone would respond. I received an email from a boy named after a constellation and we met for dinner in the cafeteria.

He was different from what I expected. Rather short and thin. With dark curly hair and a very soft voice. A philosophy major? Was he studying physics?

He loved poetry as much as I did. He wrote in pencil in a spiral-bound notebook, just like I did.

We would meet several times a week to lead a most bizarre collection of people in conversation, in reading and in writing. My surfer friend Jesse and his roommate Sam, who would come more because they were my friends than because they cared about poetry. My roommate, Keely. I don’t remember the others. Just Orion. His presence was calming, peaceful.

Was it a year later when we met to grab coffee at Starbucks in La Jolla? I was no longer a part of the poetry club I had started and he was still hanging on, though he said it wasn’t the same anymore.

He mentioned headaches and said he might go see a doctor. I told him best to get it checked out, though, I was sure it was nothing.

It’s always ‘nothing,’ isn’t it?

Then everything happened. A brain tumor. Chemotherapy. Moving back to Berkeley to be closer to doctors and his family. Putting school on hold. Writing.

But then he was better. Improving. Maybe heading back to school in San Diego, even.

I returned from an overnight trip to Vernazza and grabbed a cappuccino while catching up on emails at an Internet cafe in my temporary home: Siena, Italy.

Emails and emails. Photos and emails and there it was. One line in the midst of a rambling email from someone back home; an aside. By the way, he had died. A boy you knew? So unexpectedly. And there was a funeral. And I would have to miss it. Everything blurred.

I ran and ran through the cobbled streets to my best friend’s apartment. And I cried the kind of hot tears we cry when we are young.

I mourned not just for the early stage friendship we had, but the friendship that would never grow. I cried for such a talented human being. For someone so young and beautiful.

For someone who was in love with someone (not me).

For someone whose parents had to bury him. For someone who loved poetry so purely and who also loved physics and philosophy, which I could never understand. For someone named after a constellation; you don’t come across people like that often.

For someone who entered my life so briefly and left it so rapidly. For someone I wouldn’t properly bid farewell.

And, still. Orion, the constellation. It’s always in the sky.

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