I met him over the summer. I had been within the so called family of lifeguards for little over a month now. But the month had seemed like a year, because in one year we only had three months with each other if we were lucky. And three months passed by awfully fast. Mike, one of our good friends, had already left, saying that he couldn't handle the job that was thrust upon him. All of us were shocked when he left, but none of us really thought it was his fault.
By the time July rolled around we were all as tight knit as possible. We had our hates, and dislikes, we laughed when ever someone fell into the lake off the rescue board when they were trying to get back from the raft, and we had our family get togethers. There were arguments over who got to eat the last of the Foxbrook Hot dogs, or why we didn't tell the supervisors that one of us had brought a cake, and who were we to eat it all?
And then he walked in. He was already there, when we first years arrived. All thin limbed, and smiles, and shaggy hair, as the others who already knew who he was went up to him, cheerfully, hugged him and asked how life had been going. And us? Us first years stood around in shock, because how dare he intrude on our new life, our new family, our new home, like who the hell was he? Alex told us who he was, a sixth year here, who was going to be put as Head Guard again now that Mike was gone, and he wasn't here during the first half of the season because he was in Chile, studying abroad. By the time Mid July rolled around, it became an intricate family again.
We tried to make tye-dye t-shirts and forgot to add water to the shirts, so we wasted half the dye. We laughed and joked around, he led all of us well, and we were like the little ducklings that followed him everywhere. Against the other beaches, we all cheered for him as he ran the last leg of the race and won us second place, laughed when we surprised him, or commented on how small his waist was, and really did he keep his hip pack this short round?
But then, summer was over. People were leaving all the time, beaches were closing down, and more of them were joining us here at Foxbrook. They were like our extended family, people we saw and met sometimes but weren't with us 24/7. Awards were handed out, with laughs when one of our members won Best Baked Goods for all the cakes she gave us, and all of us cried out her name while the other beaches were confused. Later we found that that was Josh's last parting gift, electing us all for stuff he thought was a good inside joke, like Clayton's "secret ginger" award.
And then people left, one by one, they were going off to college early, had another job to do, just needed a break, and then that was it. It was sad, and even more when we found out that Josh, he wasn't coming back next year. "I've had a long run," he said when we asked, pleaded, begged if he would come back, just one more year with all of us, just one more year as coworkers, friends. We knew that if he didn't come back, it was unlikely that we'd ever see him again. "Nah," he said, "I've got places to go, people to see, things to do, I've got to get on with my life. This was nice while it lasted." We hung our heads, cried a bit, away from prying eyes, but somehow he always caught us. The last day I went around to everyone, hugs were given, tears were shed, "See ya Josh," I said, with a little mischievous smile that made him somehow laugh and shake his head, "See ya," he said, as he reached out and gave me a hug. I had his address in my pocket, in order to send him the pictures from this summer, "I'm gonna miss your cakes," he said to me.
"Yeah?" I ask, a hand on my hip, "You sure bout that?"
He laughed, something that I'm pretty sure all of us were burning into our brains, that sound.
"I'll make sure to try and send you one on your birthday," I say and we both know that I'm not gonna do that, but it's the thought that counts. "Come and visit us, one day," I say to him, "And maybe, just maybe, it'll be a day with cake."
He smiles again, because he's already promised us he'll visit us sometime, and we're all hoping that we'll be on when he does.
"See ya Josh," I say again, grabbing my stuff.
"See ya (name)," he says and I'm walking out the door, a smile on my face.
Even though I'll never see him again, I couldn't have asked for a better friend.