We were standing next to each other in the lobby of the church. I was holding on to her, but she was clinging to me. Over and over she kept repeating the same words, “Please don’t go. I love you. I don’t want you to go.” We stayed in this embrace for longer than I had ever stayed in an embrace in my life. I was just a few months shy of sixteen, and nobody had ever hung on to me so tightly. Nobody had ever said they loved me over and over again. Nobody had ever begged me to stay. I had a great family. My parents had certainly made me feel loved since the day I was born. But this was different. I was a teenage boy. And she was a teenage girl. And she loved me. And she didn’t want me to go.
Her name was Sonja Jane Larson and she was beautiful. She was tender, her skin and spirit and words as soft and fragrant as rose petals. She was creative, an artist, a poet, a dreamer. I was nerdy, glasses set upon my nose and clothes that more than likely came from a discount establishment. I was awkward, unsure of myself, lacking confidence in who I was. We weren’t dating. I didn’t have a clue how to date a girl when I was fifteen. We were something better, something way deeper than an adolescent infatuation. Sometimes we’d hold hands as lovers often do, and I can still remember the way she would lean over and kiss my cheek for no particular reason. We were buddies, the best of friends, connected in a way that wasn’t necessarily romantic, but powerful in a way I still can’t quite explain. She just got me. And there are few people in life that really get you, you know?
And we stood there in the church lobby on a muggy south Florida summer night in June of 1987, surrounded by other teenagers, yet lost in our own little world, and she was clinging to me and I was holding on to her. And over and over she cried, “Please don’t go. I love you. I don’t want you to go.”
But I had to go.