By Roe, age 17, OmanNothing in life is ever easy, sure. Anything you want or do takes effort. It takes patience, and resilience. I'm 17. Which means I have a pretty good idea (if not an excellent one) what I'm talking about.
At times, when you're just sitting with some time on your hands, you think about what is the hardest thing in life. I think it's getting over a friend's sudden death.
The funny thing is, before it happens to you, you never think it will happen to you. It's what happens in movies, and to 'other' people. For some obscure, unidentified reason, we think we are excluded from such things. You see someone on TV who has lost a loved one, and you feel sorry for them, but somewhere inside you're thinking, thank God it wasn't me.
I've become that person for others now.
It was exactly five months, nine days, and three hours ago that I got a text saying: XYZ passed away in a car accident. I still have that message saved in my Inbox. For some reason, I could never bring myself to delete it. It was a car accident. To say it was horrendous would be the understatement of the century.
Yesterday, someone asked me if I was over it yet. I could have given them some sort of long, philosophical answer that neither I nor they would understand. But I settled for the truth, which is: I really don't know. During these past five months, I've gone through a lot. Trying to explain it, or even brief it, would take more time and space than I can afford. I'll give you a clue: it's hard. It takes every ounce of willpower. It drains you of your energy, and still demands more. It involves dropping from straight A's to C's, not having anyone understand, and the torture of having to go through the motions of day-to-day life when all you feel like doing is hogging the covers for the rest of your life.
What helps and what doesn't is a long list, but there is one thing I definitely did. I wrote letters to her. I'll admit that it may be because I never said goodbye to her. (I was out of town when it happened; she was cremated, so there was no burial or grave.) But I felt it made the whole ordeal bearable, if not all right.
Over these five months, I've written her a huge number of letters. I'll include a few excerpts here:
They say you're dead. Somehow, I can't associate those 4 letters to you. You were always the most alive: urging the girls to play basketball when they started worrying about their complexion or sweating. You were the one who bunked first and so everyone followed, even though no one would admit that it had been you all along.
* * *
How can you be permanently gone? You know the way they say afterlife is forever? Forever. It seems such a smooth word; it rolls over your tongue like a slippery candy. So smooth it rolls right off your understanding, every time. Every time you try to imagine something with no end, you literally feel yourself hitting the boundaries of your imagination. And then, if you force yourself to go beyond it - it hurts. You can feel your mind stretching, your understanding trying to expand, and the pain is something beyond physical. This is no different for me. I can't imagine how you could go and not come back. You're sixteen, for God's sake. You can't be gone.
* * *
Just come back, will you? Things are awful. I promise you, I'll always defend you from the popular clique now. I'll never pretend to not notice when they degrade you indirectly so that you can't even defend yourself. I'll do what I want, how I want it. And we can be great friends, the way we were before.
* * *
A lot of people who went through similar stuff asked me when it would be all okay; when they would stop waking up with the image of that person before their eyes so sharp it hurt. And I told them: maybe never.
It was true, too.
But writing letters has helped me a great deal, and I think I can now say I'm on the road to recovery.
Today, I wrote what I think will be the last one. It has a strange air of finality to it that even I can't deny. Here it is:
Sometimes, at the end of a really long day, when I'm sitting on the bed wearing a ratty old tee-shirt with my legs folded beneath me, I think of you.
When the lights are out, and in the darkness I can see anything I want to, or nothing, depending upon my mood, when I can hear the soft breathing of my sister on the bed beside mine, I think of how I'm breathing, and you're not.
I think of how we automatically take it that we will wake up tomorrow, go to school, sit through some classes and ditch some, come back home, have lunch and go to sleep. How we know those things will happen, and yet when asked, we have no good reason as to why it shouldn't happen any other way.
I think of you, and sometimes I'm afraid to go to sleep, because what if I never wake up?
As I hear the cars outside my window, I wonder about the accident that ended your life. What happened just before the accident? Was it as sudden as dropping off to sleep, or was there a fraction of a second before, when you saw the lamp post and knew it was the end? Was there enough time for you to just realize your life might be over, or did you have one nano-second extra after that dawned upon you?
What did you do in that nano-second? Did you pray to God to forgive you? Did you look at your friend who was sitting in the seat next to you to see how she was? Were you paralyzed by shock and fear?
How does it feel when you realize that you're sixteen and dead? How does it feel when you're just told: Life Over? Is it like when one gets the Game Over message on the screen?
Did you scream?
When the car headed towards the lamp post, then tilted, then all the girls in the back seat fell on top of you and crushed your left leg, then the police came, then they scooped you out from the pool of blood so bright red it hurt the eyes, then they took you to the hospital, kept you on life support for a few hours, changed your hospital, then pronounced you dead - in all that time, was there even a fraction of a second when you realized that you were sixteen and that your life as you knew it was over? Did you realize that you would never go to college, fall in love, get married, have kids, and grow old?
Did you know that half the school and your whole class was in the hospital - some in shock, some crying, others praying? If you did, did that make you feel honored? Or did it not matter at all?
I don't know if you thought of all that, but you know, it's okay. Even if you couldn't, I think I thought about it enough for both of us.