There was a boy I went to school with for many years. He was a beautiful boy. You could see it came from his parents. I remember his father's impressive height when he joined our class on the ice at our year-end skating party.
In grade seven, the boy's desk was right next to mine. An athletic and increasingly popular boy rubbing shoulders with a quiet and awkward girl. I didn't have much to say to him, but we'd known each other since we were young and he was always kind.
Then came the morning that his desk sat empty and our teacher stood at the front of the classroom and told us our classmate and friend had lost his father in a car accident — that the strong, towering man we knew was killed on the way home from a business trip.
I can still see the tortoiseshell clips in the hair of the girl in front of me. I stared at them for a long time. After a few moments of silence, our teacher told us we wouldn't see our friend for awhile and that when he came back, it would be hard for him and for all of us.
"You won't know what to say, so you might think it's better to say nothing," he said. "It's not."
He told us to push through our discomfort and find a way to acknowledge our friend's loss. "He's different now. We can't pretend he's not."
It was several weeks before he came back. And I happened to cross paths with him outside the school. We were alone.