He passed away in view of my bedroom window.
I grew up living in a three-family house that was owned by my parents. The living room windows looked out onto a busy city street. Our kitchen window overlooked the driveway and the neighbors’ yard and house beyond it. From the bathroom window, we could see our back yard.
My bedroom window looked over the parking lot and the garage next door.
When the garage lights were on and the doors were open, I could see people moving around inside. One of those people was a young man who moonlighted as a mechanic. He was my first crush, or he was one of my first crushes anyway. I can’t remember the specific order of the people who caught my eye before I was old enough to date; I just know that he was one of them.
My crush was the boy next door, almost.
He didn’t live next door. There wasn’t a house there. It was just a sloping garden covered in trees and brush and weeds that led to a retaining wall and then a sharp drop off to the parking lot. Then, of course, there was a garage.
The owners of the property rented out the parking spaces to folks from the neighborhood, and they rented out the garage to the young man who would become my crush.
He was there all the time.
From behind the lace curtains of my bedroom window, I caught glances of him and his friends as they drove, pushed, or pulled cars in various stages of disrepair through the parking lot and into the open garage doors.
They worked on the cars late into the night, which was ideal for the solitary pre-teen girl peering out from her dark window into the illuminated garage. In the summer, I could open my window and catch snippets of conversation.
I never heard anything particularly interesting, but I kept on listening just in case. My crush listened to the same kind of music I did, and we even liked the same local radio station. So I could turn on the radio in my bedroom and pretend we were listening to it together.
I didn’t know him personally, but my family did.
My parents were strict, and I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys. I even went to an all-girls’ school. Besides, even if I was allowed to talk to boys, he wasn’t a boy. He was a young man. Perhaps he was only five or six years older than I was, but there’s a big difference between a twelve or thirteen-year-old girl and a man of eighteen or nineteen.
He was closer to my brother’s age, who was eight years older than I was. My brother and my older cousins occasionally stopped at the garage to talk to him, and I was jealous to no end. I wanted to talk to him, too, but I couldn’t.
I didn’t tell anyone about my crush on him because I didn’t want anyone to know. No one would have taken me seriously. Plus, I was young enough to be embarrassed by my feelings.
That didn’t stop me from looking out the window as often as possible, hoping to catch a glimpse of my crush.
At the sound of engines, or voices, or music, I was on high alert. I would rush to my window and stare out at the parking lot next door. More often than not, I would be rewarded by the sight of him.
I never saw him look toward my bedroom window, not even a glance; and I never waved hello. There was no point. He wouldn’t have seen me anyhow.
Then my crush passed away in view of my bedroom window.
It wasn’t unusual for my crush to work all through the night. The light from the garage barely shone through my bedroom window, letting me know he was there without disturbing my slumber.
If my window was open to let in the summer breeze, I could hear his radio tuned to my favorite station.
One night, I went to bed with the knowledge that he was there next door working on one of the many cars that passed in and out of my field of vision. When I woke up, the parking lot was buzzing with activity.
I knew instantly that something was wrong.
Someone — I don’t know who — had found his lifeless body in the garage outside my bedroom window. He was alive and vibrant one moment and gone forever the next.
My crush had passed away sometime during the night. He was dead.
By the time I woke up that morning, the body had been removed. That’s what my crush had been reduced to, “the body.” When I went to sleep the night before, he was an energetic and handsome young man. When I woke up the following day, he was a lifeless body.
It still boggles my mind.
I have never forgotten him even though I didn’t really know him.
You don’t have to know someone personally to feel the loss of them when they are gone. I knew him well enough to miss his presence, his face, the clothes he wore, his music.
People still parked in the parking lot. They came and went as if nothing had changed. For them, nothing had. They still had lives and families, jobs, friends, and hobbies.
I still stared out the window. Eventually, I saw people clearing out that garage. They removed his tools, and they removed the cars he was fixing when he died.
The owners of the property rented out the garage to someone new.
I never saw the new occupant of the garage. They didn’t leave the garage doors open at night with the lights on. They didn’t listen to the radio loud enough for me to hear it through my bedroom window. They weren’t like him.
That was probably for the best.