Today is your birthday and I intend to shower you with surprises, gifts, magic and mayhem – in typical Melissa fashion. You’d be 28 today and I can picture it perfectly. Your day would start with a morning Bud Light in the shower while you sing my most hated song, “Drinkin’ a beeeer in the shoooowwwerrrr”, just to annoy me. You’d have a big goofy smile on your face as you waltz into the work kitchen throwing up high fives while obnoxiously screaming, “Woo! It’s my birthday! Everyone better do what I say and not give me any shit today!” The night would undoubtedly end at Pittsburgh’s Pub where I’d secretly have decorated the bar with balloons, displayed hundreds of my specialty homemade Jell-O shots, and packed the bar with anyone you’d ever met – resulting in 50+ tequila and whiskey shots lined up in celebration of you. On three, everyone would slam back their shot and scream, “Happy Birthday, Elliott! FUCK THE DODGERS!” And of course, our night would officially end with an extra-large Irving Pizza, a side of room temperature 711 nacho cheese dip, and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. At least that’s how it would have been a few years ago when we were still together.
You and I both know relationships are hard – especially when you’re young. We were in our early 20’s, we were in love, and we were having tons of fun. We hadn’t quite hit that, “OMG, I’m getting old and I don’t know what I’m doing” stage in our lives; but before we knew it – it hit. A few years passed and we began to question everything.
Neither of us knew what we wanted in life or if our future was meant to be shared together. Half of me was ready to move in with you and take that next big step in our relationship. The other half was terrified of the fact that by choosing you, I’d have to choose San Francisco too, and I’d forever be separated from my family. A part of you was afraid to lose me, but you were also afraid to lose yourself. While you loved me, you also needed to understand what life would be like without me. In theory, we both wanted to be with each other but we also knew we were young and should explore other paths before making any long-term decisions at 24 years old.
We were stuck in this whirlwind of intimacy, safety, comfort and love that was bogged down by logic, panic, and individual self-crisis. In the end, we both chose ourselves and we said goodbye to our relationship we so deeply valued and cherished. We parted ways crying in each other’s arms and promising we’d always love each other…and that we did.
The hardest part is when I let you go, I never imagined you’d fully be gone. I never thought you’d be out of my life forever and I was absolutely certain our paths would cross again and we’d be right back to where we started – happy and in love. You were my best friend, and I was yours, and we had a connection that could never be fully lost or forgotten. I knew it, and you knew it.
A year after we broke up we reconnected and you told me that one day you’d marry me. Not only did I want it, but I believed it. Although I’d already moved away and we both explored relationships with other people, there was never any doubt or worry that we wouldn’t eventually be together again – and make that come true.
Unfortunately, you were taken from this earth one year and eight months later. While I continue to mourn your loss and struggle with the reality of it all, I’m so unbelievably grateful to have seen your face and spoken to you one month before you left us. We wished each other a Happy New Year at midnight on January 2017. I sent you that ridiculous video of me in my pink wig while celebrating with Vic, and you texted me a photo of you drinking a beer on the kitchen line while you worked. We wished each other another year of happiness, and you told me to be safe and to take care of Victor. 28 days later I got the call that you’d passed away from heart failure.
I’d always known you had heart problems. I’d always known it might affect you at some point in your life. If I had known back then that you only had a few years left, I never would have willingly walked away like I did. I never would have left San Francisco. I never would have left our relationship. I would have been there with you – till your last day. I thought we’d have another chance. I thought the future of our story was pending to be written. I thought wrong.
In a solid attempt to not steal your birthday thunder and make this post about my mourning (fail), I want to continue this letter by surprising you with some of my favorite and most ridiculous memories of you.
Love At First Refrigerator: The moment we met took place in a closet-sized box surrounded by vegetables with temperatures approaching the 40s. Your first impression of me was a crying, emotionally beaten, not-so skilled waitress. My first impression of you was a sweet, kind-hearted, jovial skinny chef. I was so embarrassed when you opened that refrigerator door and found me hiding next to the carrots balling my eyes out. You didn’t have to stay with me in the refrigerator until I was done crying. You didn’t have to take the time to comfort me and tell me it was going to be okay. You didn’t have to boost me up by telling me I was strong and to get back out there with confidence. But you did, and that’s why I fell in love with you. Within five minutes you showed me exactly who you were, and without surprise, who you continued to be throughout the length of our relationship.
Baby Giraffe Legs: Can we talk about what a terrible runner you are? Like, how the hell did you ever pass P.E. class and graduate Middle School? I remember watching you run around the bases at my Sloshball birthday party in Golden Gate Park and feeling like I was witnessing a baby giraffe attempting to take its first steps. If there was a billion dollars waiting for you at home plate, but you had to cross all three bases in under 10 minutes, you most definitely would have failed.
Birthday Eviction: Remember when I got you evicted from your apartment? OKAY…it’s not entirely my fault. It’s partially your fault for being born and dating a girl who goes 0 to 100 over birthday parties. In any case, I threw you the most incredible surprise birthday party fit with my usual Jell-O shots, a 10-gallon Igloo cooler of Jungle Juice, a house decorated in balloons and birthday signs, and an invite list consisting of the entire Sunset District. It will forever be a mystery as to how we fit so many people in that tiny in-law apartment, but it was a success nonetheless. I remember the last two guests were Ricky and his boyfriend Tony. Can you remember what happened next? Tony challenged me to a runway catwalk battle; through your hallway, up and down the stairs, and back. You and Ricky stood on the sidelines, him giggling and you shaking your head with a grin. I’m so happy you two are up in heaven together. And although you got evicted, I’m sure you’d agree it was worth it.
The Getaway: What about that time your friend’s wedding got canceled so we went on a mini wine tasting trip to Healdsburg instead? I’m not sure if you know this, but that was the best weekend I ever had with you. We both discovered our love for Port wine and puff pastry covered soups. We both LOVED Healdsburg and appreciated escaping the chaos of the city for a couple days. It was there that we connected on a deeper level; we could actually hear our own thoughts and see the depths of each other’s souls. I was able to share with you my love for wine; you were able to share with me your eclectic food pairing skills. We had the most romantic countryside weekend that truly felt magical. Oh, but we can’t forget the best part of the trip. Remember how you almost got us jumped by insisting to wear your Dodgers hat to that teeny locals-only dive bar filled with sketchy hicks and thugged out Nortenos? Ya…I was ready to whip out a pen from my purse and start shanking fools. Good job, Elliott!
Love Letters: We all know I’m the most impatient person on the planet. So having to wait weeks and weeks for you to find those hilariously inappropriate love letters I’d secretly been hiding in your sweatshirt pocket at work, was the most frustrating thing ever! I eventually cracked and said “ELLIOTTTTT! Will you please put your hand in your pocket and pull out whatever is in there!” But that’s the funny part…there was nothing in there. Turns out I’d been accidentally leaving love letters to the dishwasher who had the same sweatshirt as you – for weeks! No wonder he was always winking at me as he walked by.
Mi Amor: Our 1 Year Anniversary…the day you wrote me this card and gave me the most beautiful moonstone earrings, even though you thought I was a crazy hippie with an obscene crystal obsession. That’s the thing about you Elliott, you never held me back from being who I wanted to be. You might not have understood my passion for The Grateful Dead, or my witch-like crystal healing practices, but you still 100% supported it. You never stopped me from being me – weirdness and all. While you regularly looked me in the eyes and said, “You goddamn hippie!”, it was always followed by a wink and the most charming loving smile I ever did see.
A King & His Queen: I’ll never forget the time I went bankrupt taking you to Gary Danko for your birthday. That was a night of legitimate royalty. We ate food fit for a king and queen and spent a few hours pretending not to be the type of people that slam shots, twerk on bars, and eat 3:00 AM pizza. For a couple hours, we grazed on a 3-course Michelin star meal broken up by 5-courses of amuse-bouche; bite sized yet unbelievably orgasmic hors d’oeuvres. We finished off with 3-courses of dessert, some fresh gift wrapped pastries for next-day brunch, and a signed menu from Mr. Gary Danko himself – from one chef to another. It made me so happy to see you so happy, even if the cocktails were $20 bucks a pop.
Your Best Friend Bertha: I’m positive you remember that ridiculous rabbit phase I went through for a while, right? I was constantly googling different rabbit breeds and sending you screenshots of my favorite weird and goofy rabbits? I told you I was going to name my future rabbit Bertha for the sole purpose of blasting the Grateful Dead song “Bertha” while I let my rabbit run like crazy around my apartment. I’d put the song on full blast and run around in circles singing the lyrics at the top of my lungs – just to piss you off. “I had a hard run, running from your window. I was all night running, running, running, I wonder if you care? I had a run-in, run around and run down. Run around a corner, run smack into a tree!”
Whenever I’d talk about my non-existent rabbit named Bertha, you always joked, “If you ever get Bertha, you’re gonna come home from work one day and I’ll have rabbit stew waiting for you at the dinner table. There will be no Bertha anywhere in sight.” We all know you hated Bertha just because you had unfinished business with your childhood rabbit, cleverly named “Wabbit”, who’d bite you every time you put your hand in its cage to feed it.
To this day, whenever I hear Bertha come up on the iPod, I always think of you. And just so you know…I haven’t given up on her. One day I will have that rabbit and she will run around the apartment to her own song. And when that day comes, I pray that your spirit is there watching, laughing and shaking your head in amusement while mumbling, “You goddamn hippie!”
So I guess this brings me to the gift portion of this letter. I suppose you could call it a gift of gratitude. I want to express to you my never-ending appreciation for the years of selfless love, friendship, and companionship you offered me during our relationship, as well as the friendship we maintained beyond.
Thank you for…being my absolute biggest support system. A day never passed without you reminding me I was strong, I was beautiful, I was intelligent, and I was capable of huge things in this world. You’ve been the biggest influence on my journey of acquiring self-love and confidence.
Thank you for…teaching me compassion, patience, and how to be the bigger person. There were countless times my hot head attitude got us into conflict. While I wanted to freak out, jump to conclusions and act on impulse, you always calmed me down and reminded me none of it was important. You taught me to walk away, apologize, and own up to my mistakes.
Thank you for…never cutting me out and abandoning me. Regardless of how bad things got or how horribly fights escalated, you never once turned your back on me. You were ALWAYS there for me no matter what, even after our relationship came to an end.
Thank you for…teaching me to fight for my dreams. You were SO dedicated to becoming a Sous Chef and owning your own restaurant with your brothers one day. I remember you wanted to call it “Gnow’s”…your last name spelled backwards. I thought it was absolutely terrible but I never told you that. In any case, I’m sure “Gnow’s” would have been a total success with you running that kitchen.
Thank you for…being the nicest person I’ve ever known. Your spirit, positivity, and energy were so infectious. You had so many friends; so many acquaintances – you attracted the world. I truly aspire to radiate as beautifully as you did. You were an absolute shining star.
Thank you for…showing me what I deserve from a man in a relationship. You were by far the best boyfriend I ever had, and since you, I’ve yet to find anyone as great as you. A lot of guys have told me they’ve loved me, but I’m sure you’re the only one who has meant it. Love to you wasn’t just a word; it was an everyday action you never failed to express or show in person. I was so lucky to have met you, to have loved you, and to have been loved by you.
Elliott, please watch over me and keep me safe. And when my time comes, I hope you’ll be waiting for me on the other side. I will forever love you; I will forever miss you.
Happy Birthday to my favorite, stubborn, patient, persistent, sleepy, kind-hearted, goal driven, goofy and hungry – Taurus.