This story is fiction, and it starts with his car flipping over on a highway at 2:30 in the morning.
She's driving right behind him and sees the whole accident play out and it's so incredible she feels detached. As if her windshield was a movie screen.
Strictly speaking, though, this is the middle of the story. In the beginning, they are just kids. Maybe sixteen.
Sometimes - and this was very early on - she'd see him after school. He'd be waiting for somebody else, one foot leaning against his car (well, the one he borrowed from his dad); the collar of his polo shirt sticking up.
A year or two later he seemed to always be a part of the circle of close friends of whomever she happened to be dating.
He was easy to talk to. They would sit on the ledge of the roof of his house, legs dangling down, and smoke and speculate about the future. Would they remain friends? Move away? Would they forget each other? "You'll be a writer" he predicted "and I'll buy your best seller the second I come across it."
While the others drank rum and coke, played poker and listened to music (now "classic rock") the two of them would search for a quiet corner and sit on the rug, lean against the wall, and talk straight through the night.
"Do you think it's true" she would ask, "that time heals everything?"
He'd regard her for a long while and exhale, making chains of perfect smoke circles. "Almost everything" he'd declare with authority. "Almost".
They talked about the pros and cons of the various people they were dating. Before long, anything he said seemed to have a hidden message. Her interpretation: "She’s not quite right, because she's not you".
One day right before dawn she asked him in a tone she hoped sounded clinical if he was a good kisser. "Well", he said with a cocky grin, "I've never gotten any complaints."
A few weeks later at a bar he was drunk and she was not and he walked towards her and she walked backwards and he walked towards her until her back was flush against an exposed brick wall. He put one hand on one side of her head and waited a full minute. He put the other on the other side. "We're friends", she whispered. "Then turn away" he replied as he inched his face towards hers. She didn't.
He called her early the next morning. "Are we good?" Yes. "Are you sure?" Yes. "Well, am I a good kisser?"
"Of all the guys I've kissed" she replied, "you're a solid #2".
They pretended they were friends for another few months before he confessed he loved her, had always loved her; and then proceeded to have the kind of relationship one would expect from two people stumbling through their early twenties.
If she were real, if she was here, what would I say to her? I would say be careful. I would say that every relationship tracks a path for the ones that follow so inexorable that one day you become unable to distinguish your past actions from your fate.
I would tell her what is already obvious to you: that nothing is more important than the connections you make.
That the people who have known you for years become sole witnesses to a piece of you no one will ever again understand.
And I would tell him that he was wrong. That time doesn’t really heal anything.