Tribute to Jay, Monday April 4th


Original artwork presented by Ziye Wang

The last time I remember seeing Jay Lu was a mere glimpse. I was on my way from House 2 to House 1, following the covid protocol path through the overpass and down the hallway near the music wing. I don’t remember what class I was headed to, or what day it was, only that I was a senior and ready to be done with high school. A few paces ahead of me, I saw Jay emerge from the music wing, binder case in his arms, his huge freshman backpack sitting low on his back. I only caught a glimpse of his face, covered in a mask. And yet I knew it was him. It was in the way he held himself, the way he all but bounced up the steps to the foyer. He exuded energy in a way that only he could. I remember thinking, with a smile and a shake of the head, “Man, what a freshman. I’ll have to remember to tell mom that I had a Jay sighting today.”

My memories of him are scattered. I remember screaming with laughter when he and my younger brother teamed up to ambush me in a nerf gun fight, the smile on his face as he mercilessly unloaded the foam projectiles upon me in his basement. I remember the way he made sure to include my brother on his side, because who doesn’t love to ambush their sisters? He played ping pong with me that night, nodding encouragingly when I finally served the ball over the net. I remember the times where he and the other boys at our Friday night fellowship would run around together, a cacophony of sound, bubbling over with excitement. The times where I wanted to scream at him to stop following me around and to stop asking me questions. That is the one thing I remember the most clearly about him– he never stopped asking questions. I would complain to my mom about him, much like I would complain about my own brother’s curiosity. They are very similar in that way, my brother and Jay. They both see the world around them with wide open eyes, drinking in every new piece of information, everything that excites them and confuses them and leaves them in awe. And then they ask questions, because they can’t help but want to know more. That is how I remember Jay.

And so when he entered high school last year, when I was a senior, I was excited for him. He asked me if it was possible to take physics as a freshman. He believed he was ready to take physics. And he probably was. I was excited for the opportunities that Jay would get to take advantage of, now that he was a mighty high schooler. I wanted to see him go into many of the activities that he eventually did. Science Olympiad, The Buzz. I was ready to see where his curiosity would take him. I would see him in the hallway, bouncing toward his next class, and smile, the pep in his step reminding me of how energetic he was when he was younger. And I would go home and tell my mother that “I saw Jay today. He looked good.” And my mother would smile and say “I’m glad he’s doing good.” 

I remember how eager he was to help. Whenever my family went over to his house, he would be the first one to offer us food. Chips, candy, more chips. He was the one who helped his grandmother walk up the stairs, his arm looped with hers, patiently taking one step at a time.

I have not spoken to Jay in years, always content to watch him from a distance. People always say that they regret not doing more to talk to a person, to get to know them, and while I do regret not saying hi to him more often whenever I saw him in the hallway, I would much rather let the gratitude that I feel for knowing him outweigh whatever regrets might come to the surface, now that he is gone.

I was driving down Enders Road one day after school, on my way to work. It was spring, or maybe it was fall, I’m not entirely sure. I got to the bottom of the hill near Enders Road when I saw a familiar figure, walking on the sidewalk. He had his binder case in one hand, his violin in the other. His backpack bounced against his back, matching the way in which he walked. I felt a smile touch my face as I passed by him. “There’s Jay,” I thought. “Don’t forget to tell mom you saw him today.”