Myth: He was quiet.
Truth: When he was playing his favorite video games, he could scream. He could shriek like a ghost was coming after him, and he was going to die first “because the black people always die first in those horror movies,” he said. And he could rage. Mostly about the video games.
Myth: He was shy.
Truth: He had no problems sending shirtless selfies to his Snapchat contacts. Sometimes just to annoy them. He would send them despite the responses: “please cover yourself” and “but there are children present.”
Myth: He was reserved.
Truth: He was definitely polite to some people—teachers, for instance. But he also had a cat named Butterscotch that he referred to as “B.S.”
Myth: He was studious and hardworking.
Truth: No teenager likes going to school, but he procrastinated until the last minute on every assignment, every project he had to hand in. Somehow, he still managed to get better scores than most of his classmates. Go figure.
Myth: He didn’t have much interest in music.
Truth: His playlists on Youtube included all sorts of genres. He sang a lot (and admittedly kind of badly) over voice calls. He had watched musicals like Les Mis. He even enjoyed the Frozen soundtrack and would burst into song whenever cues came up in real life or over text.
Myth: He is gone.
Truth: In a physical sense, he’s gone.
But sometimes, if I close my eyes real hard, it feels like he’s still there. He’s still there sitting in AP Econ, doing Lego-based team building exercises. He’s still sitting two seats down in Zoolander after an utterly failed attempt to movie hop into Deadpool. He still has his feet dangerously close to my drink during a Halloween party. He’s still sitting across from me at one of those tiny tables in the middle school courtyard in eighth grade because we sat out there instead of in the cafeteria no matter what the weather was like. He’s still swiping at a ball in the Gaga pit at recess back at Hilltop. He’s looking at my desk the first time we had a real conversation and he’s saying something like, “What is in that desk? Nothing?”
Sometimes, just sometimes, it feels like he’s still here.
I wasn’t the closest person to him, not by a long shot. I cannot imagine how others are feeling, even a month after the tragedy. Still, it’s easy to say that a part of me—no, a part of us—died with Ryan.
However, in those “just sometimes” moments when it feels like he’s still here, I feel the reverse is true as well.
A part of Ryan lives in us.
Here is a song I wrote for Ryan.