Ryan was mocked by his schoolmates, but Jack Green befriended him. And then, one day, Ryan was gone.
Ryan was one of the strongest people I had ever met, but you'd never have known it just by looking at him. A bespectacled boy of 13, lightly dusted with dark brown freckles that would lift off his cheeks when I made him laugh, and an unkempt mop on his head of the same color. He wasn't in peak condition, but he didn't care to be. To some, Ryan was just a nerd, geek, loser, or some other hateful word spat at him like venom from passersby. The curious thing about Ryan, however, is he never seemed to mind. He always looked happy, always a slight grin, never a care in the world.
Ryan didn't open up to anyone but me. I learned from Ryan his dream of becoming an author, and stories he would write about space and the great beyond outside of "our little green and blue marble." When he talked about the universe, his eyes would reflect the stars he spoke of, even in broad daylight. He dreamed of being as far from this world as possible. It wasn't until later that I learned why.
Ryan told me he was moving the night before he left. We were walking at night through our quiet town, listening to the wind through the bare branches and the shuffling of the occasional pedestrian past us. Normally Ryan was chipper on these walks, but this evening he was silent. I thought nothing of it until I heard a sharp inhale, only to look over and see tears across each cheek. "I need to tell you something," he whispered.
I thought I had known Ryan, but his parents' divorce, their eviction, his mental illness and his craving not to be alive were news to me. That cold February evening on a park bench, Ryan clutching my jacket tightly, crying into my chest with my arms around him was the last time I saw or heard from him. I never got a new house address from him. His phone would go straight to voicemail, until one day his number belonged to someone else. Spring came, summer passed, and still no hint of the astronaut gone missing. That is, until I found a letter in my winter jacket pocket, the one I hadn't touched since the last night with him. Inside was a note that read: