*Matt reads slowly, clearly, loudly. We were all shocked that he chose to raise his hand, but he did, and now here we are, listening, feeling, bawling. My head is cloudy and I can’t think, I didn’t even know her. Nonetheless, I revert to a far away place in the back of my brain.
Matt slams into my locker at full speed. His head bounces off the light-blue metal comically and I catch a goofy expression on his face, as he attempts to humor me. I just stare. He is my first real boyfriend, seventh grade real that is, and after this incident I break it off. I don’t get him. A few years later, as a sophomore he asks me to hang out one night after school. He picks me up at my house and drives us back to his place where we sit awkwardly in a chair that is quite obviously built for one person, and one person only. He parks it two feet from the television and pops in Juno. My arm falls asleep under his body and we sit in an uncomfortable silence for nearly two hours. By junior year, Matt has turned into some kind of soccer-playing Greek god. His hair is perfectly placed now, not too short like before, and he has gotten taller I’ve noticed. In addition, he has fluorescent white teeth, a great laugh and a six pack. Karma for breaking up with him, I’m sure, but I want to faint anyway. I only know he has great abs because he takes his shirt off for pretty much the basic entirety of our class trip to France. On one of those hot, shirtless days he tells me about the butterfly tattoo he wants to get, directly over his heart, in honor of his mom. I want to hug him but we aren’t that close.
I come back to life and I have tears in my eyes. Nobody is looking at one another, so I take a chance and raise my head. The class is in shambles. Matt’s ex-girlfriend is a mess at my right, while he sits directly across from me with his head in his hands. *Mrs. Johnson retrieves his strewn papers off of the floor and resumes reading. I put the pieces together and remember seeing him break down and toss the papers clear across the room in a fit of anger and sadness. Mrs. Johnson puts a hand on Matt’s shoulder as he sits there crying in silence, in perfect rhythm with the rest of us. She begins to cry as she reads the last lines of Matt’s paper, choking out the words of him finding his mother cold and lifeless when the cancer finally took her from his world. He crumbles at this. We crumble.
By the time senior year rolled around, Matt was the third student in our class to lose a parent. Two mothers and one father took their places in the sky, and we were left to put the pieces of their children back together again. Like Humpty-Dumpty, all broken and confused-looking. I am in a room full of Humpty-Dumpties now, but the bell rings and we have to put ourselves back together on our own. Our silent class sifts into the noisiness of the hallway, and I lose Matt in the throng of people.
I catch a picture of him somewhere, sometime, someplace and see a beautiful purple and green butterfly tattoo placed perfectly over his heart, just like it was part of him, and had belonged there all along.
*Name has been changed