Life can only contain so many of those times. Times when you feel so small. When the world just shudders to a halt and starts sinking through space and time, back to a humid building and up a narrow staircase and into a classroom with the desks arranged into a circle and there’s a man standing at the front. He’s wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans and brown sneakers. And his small eyes and bald head are shining your way, and he waits while you get settled at a desk and pull out a notebook. Set down your coffee. He says, “Free write,” and he sits down and picks up his small black book and pen and starts scribbling along with you. You smile because you will write something about your life that is small and insignificant, and he will write about his life in a way that makes you feel the birds of his home, the murmurations of his starlings, and know everything about him in a few short sentences. And he shares and you smile and sometimes laugh. Then you share, and he mentions something about you, in his soft Southern voice, that you never noticed about yourself.
Later you pull, out of a crumpled bag, a tiny slip of paper that says, You kept surprising me. Thanks. And on the walls in the classroom there are brown sheets of paper, covered in colorful words that you would tattoo on your body, words he wrote and you wrote and everyone wrote to remember. On the blackboard in white chalk are drawn dozens of small faces with small eyes and small smiles and underneath is written DRAW YOUR OWN JAKE ADAM YORK surrounded by hearts. You are happy there, but then you will start to forget the bits and pieces and they will seep through the cracks of your mind. Memories, only, not tangible fragments of your life. You will forget the person you became in that air-conditioned space.
But this is one of those times when you feel so alone, when you’re jolted back to the reality that was, the reality that is. He’s gone he’s gone he’s gone and you just can’t believe it because it was only yesterday that you were telling people about him, about Jake Adam York. And everyone asks why you always say Jake Adam York, the full name, not just Jake or York or something else but they don’t really understand what he was like. Maybe you didn’t either but you know that he was Jake Adam York with three separate buttons on his purple lanyard every day in class and now he is, truly, just a memory.