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  • We were all so tight for years and years, even as the vast landscape of our pioneer town had us pleading extra miles from every single tank of gas. Ninety minutes between the two furthest homes meant no going back on the night you said you'd spend, and whenever we packed into one car someone had to ride on a lap.

    E was beautiful; quiet, gentle, and sweet-faced. We were peripheral. We had the same friends, we always hugged hello and goodbye, and even shared the same house for a few nights' rest, but I never got to know him the way that other people did. Instead I loved him in a shy, starry-eyed way, guarding the stories of my friends who had loved him outside their imaginations and knocking the idea of that beautiful boy around in my head until it made my jaw ache and my hands tingle.

    He died just before Christmas. I hadn't seen him in so long, except the occasional photo; I knew he'd struggled with some things, but he still had that gentle, sweet face. Whenever any of us goes, it ricochets through all of us, though we're now flung far across the world. The night we all found out I sat in a bar with someone else I hadn't been particularly close to at the time, sharing beer and memories and sending photos to the ones who couldn't be there to sit with us. I confessed that I didn't feel particularly entitled to grieve for him, since we had never been as close as each of us had been with others. She disagreed. We all shared something special, coming up together the way we did, and when any one of us goes a part of each of us goes with them.

    And we sat together, the two of us, cradling the hole where he'd been.
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