On March 3rd, 2012, I shared a greasy, pepperoni pizza with my friend. To this day, I still remember opening the white cardboard box, the comforting steam brushing across our faces and leaving behind a stripe of dew. I still remember the silky cheese stretching and stretching until it could no longer resist the pull of our hungry fingers. I still remember the loving chuckle my friend gave me. True friends we were. Six days later, he would be gone.
Most stories start off with a happy “once upon a time,” but this one’s no fairytale. Sure, I used to think that there was a “once upon a time.” I used to believe that Peter Pan was real, that Alice did go to Wonderland, that Hakuna Matata was really a thing, but once again, that was all once upon a time. I would soon learn that life is no fantasy, that life is far from a Disney movie, that there’s no such thing as a happy ending.
On March 4th, 2012, I helped my friend with his Biology homework. I still remember question #3 which asked about enzymes and their functions. I still remember the puddle of ruby eraser shavings collecting at the corner of his desk. I still remember my friend’s tirade about his “low” grade of 94%. Five days later, he would be gone.
Most stories avoid repetition by having a variety of expressions, but not this one because, sometimes, no matter how hard we try to move on, all the nightmares keep replaying and replaying and replaying until we lose sight of the present. Sometimes, we can never find enough words to express how we feel.
On March 5th, 2012, I went bowling with my friend. I still remember falling onto the alley as I prepared to release the eight-pound ball. I still remember the three blisters I had on each of the segments of my index finger. I still remember my friend’s seven consecutive strikes and my five consecutive gutter balls. I still remember how much he beat me: 130 – 20. Four days later, he would be gone.
Most stories have a clear order with an introduction, conflict, and resolution, but not this one because, sometimes, our lives lose structure. Sometimes, our lives cease to be stories and become a mess of ideas and tragedies. Sometimes, our lives are only conflicts, the resolution nowhere to be found.
On March 6th, 2012, I ate dinner at my friend’s house. I still remember the pungent Brussel sprouts sinking into my plate. I still remember the tender, juicy pork chop that I used to cover those Brussel sprouts. I still remember his hungry dog pawing at my knees as I fed him the Brussel sprouts. I still remember my friend eating four plates of food. Three days later, he would be gone.
Most stories are long, but not this one because, sometimes, our lives end without the finishing page. Sometimes, all that our memories have to offer ends up short one. Sometimes, the author just cannot go on.
On March 7th, 2012, I played basketball with my friend at the park. I still remember my friend making the shot all the way from the other side of the court. I still remember climbing on top of his back, using his plushy head for high-fives. I still remember the trail of sweat we left behind as we walked off the court. Two days later, he would be gone.
Most stories are descriptive and colorful, but not this one because, sometimes, all the adjectives and adverbs in the world cannot replace the sorrow of reality. Sometimes, life is a movie from the 50s, just black and white, and trying to paint over it creates a smudge, and trying to erase the smudge creates a bigger one.
On March 8th, 2012, I went to the movies with my friend. I still remember spilling the buttered popcorn onto the lady sitting in front of us. I still remember how my phone rang during the quietest part of the movie. I still remember how many times my friend left to use the bathroom: four. One day later, he would be gone.
Most stories are logical, but not this one because, sometimes, things in life just happen without any reason. And the more we try to create explanations, the more we find ourselves trapped in the limbo of questions and answers, the more we find ourselves longing for an explanation for our own explanation.
On March 9th, 2012, my friend ended his own life. I still remember the shivering phone call I received from his mother. I still remember running as fast as I could, a mere block becoming a marathon, the red and blue lights paving my way. I still remember begging the officers to let me see him. I still remember his mom trying to comfort me when it was really she who needed comforting. I still remember seeing the pill bottle lying in the corner of his room. I still remember myself screaming, punching the pavement to somehow change the laws of the world so that I could bring him back. I still remember calling his father to tell him what had happened because his mother could not find the courage to do so. I still remember the ten seconds of silence before his father started to accuse me of lying. I still remember wishing that I were lying. I still remember my life falling apart right before my eyes.
Most stories go unheard, but not this one because for far too long, the muffled screams of a tormented teenager have remained silent. For far too long, his prayers have gone unanswered. For far too long, families have distressed and mourned. For far too long, friendships have been stolen by an unexpected departure.
Maybe there were signs. Maybe I was blind. Maybe we were all too consumed with our own lives to notice.
. . .
What if he told me? What if he trusted me? What if he told me and I just didn’t hear? What if he knew that I was there for him? What if I could have stopped him? What if . . . what if?
Every day, I ask these questions to myself. Every day, I lie to my parents and say that I’m okay. Every day, I run to the shower and cry and cry and cry. Every day, I find myself staring at a picture of him. Every day, I replay all the things we did together in his last week. Every day, I find myself trapped in the past.
Sometimes, we have to accept that one plus one can equal one but that one minus one always equals zero. Sometimes, we have to accept that life is no picnic, that no matter how hard we try to hide behind fantasy, reality always finds its way to surface. Sometimes, we have to understand that once Death swings his scythe, we can never turn back time no matter how many tears we shed, no matter how many times we bloody our fists from pounding the floor, no matter how much we loved him.
Sometimes, we just have to bury our guilt . . .
Sometimes, we just have to accept . . .
Sometimes, we just have to heal . . .
Sometimes, we just have to move on . . .
Sometimes . . . sometimes . . . just for Daniel . . .
Raymond So is a high school junior at Archbishop Mitty High School. Currently seventeen years old, he explores his passion for writing, earning awards from Scholastic and multiple publications in literary journals.