You never really forget it -- that moment in which you first learn that someone you love is gone; the way the earth shifts, falling silently away from you.
Inevitably at some point every October I find myself thinking about Matt and that moment at the movie theater in Yorktown Heights, the evening of October 11th, 1997, a Saturday. Ben and Alan and I had gone to see Kiss the Girls (to this day the thought of that movie makes me cringe, though I couldn't tell you a thing about it) and we ran into Jordan Faris and her boyfriend, and we chatted a bit, catching up on family gossip and neighborhood gossip, until she abruptly said, "Did you hear about Matt Narad?"
I thought she must mean he'd won a scholarship or an important debate tournament or gotten early admission to some great school, but no. He had jumped off the Bear Mountain Bridge earlier that week, had washed up a few miles south a couple days later.
Matt was one of my brother's best friends, and the one to whom I felt most like an older sister.
One particular summer, one of the summers I was lifeguarding at the lake, he had learned to sail a little Sunfish and he and a friend would sometimes come visit me in the afternoons, bringing soda and peanut butter sandwiches.
That same summer we flew to Idaho together where he spent a couple weeks on Harlow Point Road with the extended McNeil clan, swimming and fishing and sailing and eating (though you wouldn't have known it to look at him, grinning and tousle-headed and scrawny as ever).
I hadn't seen Matt for almost two years before he committed suicide and one of the most difficult parts, for me, was trying to integrate these sun-drenched memories with the horror of a boy standing alone on a bridge, so angry or sad or frustrated or scared that it begs understanding.
I've been thinking about him more this particular October than in recent years, or even, God forgive me, this last decade. There was another boy, wholly unknown to me but almost the same age as Matt, who recently jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, mere blocks from my home.
I've been thinking about these boys, these teenagers, these lost souls, and how we failed them, and how their impetuousness stole from them any hope of outliving their adolescent woes, their insomnia-laced three o'clock in the mornings.
I couldn't tell you why Matt did it, even though the thought crossed my own mind once or twice over the years. I'm grateful that, for me, it never became more than mere thought, and that I never found myself on a bridge looking down at that same river rushing up against cement pillars, frothing and cresting its way south to the sea.
(Basia Bulat, I'm Forgetting Everyone)