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The Dying Girl
Today at school I told people that I was dying. “It’s terminal,” I informed them. Irreversible and unstoppable.
I made twenty-seven friends that day.
They all flocked to me like moths to a flame—blinded and misdirected, but unable to stop themselves, until it was too late and they were burning.
People walked up to me in the halls, at my locker, and they gathered around my table at lunch. I talked to people I did not even know. I talked to people that were not aware that I had been four rows down and two columns over from them in the yearbook since kindergarten. None of this mattered though.
I talked to the basketball players.
I talked to the actors.
I talked to the honor roll students.
I talked to the class clowns.
I talked to the ones who had never had a nice thing to say to me.
I talked to all that came to me. People were so very intrigued by the dying girl. Everyone wished to be my friend, and I gained more friends than I knew what to do with. People were very sympathetic. They were all sorry that I was going to meet my untimely death.
Suddenly, I had weekend invitations to shopping mall excursions and swimming pool bashes. I had my first slumber party with the popular girls; the ones with shiny hair and glossed lips; the ones that I let copy my Biology worksheets. People wanted to do my homework for me and walk me to class. I was the center of their attention. I was their newest scrap of idle school gossip;
“Did you hear about the dying girl?”
“Yes, I did! Isn’t it so sad?”
They were always interested in how my condition was progressing. How much longer did I have? What did I want to do before the end? Did I have any regrets in life?
Was I scared to die?
I must admit, I acted absolutely valiant. I put on a brave smile and held my head up high. Everybody cheered at my courage, my fearlessness; at how I was not afraid to die.
My new friends held giant benefit events and grand celebrations—a sort of going away party before my time was up. Those last days were like a family reunion; a great conglomeration of people whose names were lost on me. We all smiled and talked amongst each other, but we did not know each other.
Then one day at school, while all of the basketball players and actors and honor roll students and class clowns swarmed around my lunch table, I announced that today very well may be my last, and that I feared the end was nigh. I told them not to cry or despair, for they had all been such good friends, better than I had expected them to be. “Just promise to remember me,” I said, “and I will meet you all again someday!”
There were goodbye hugs and sorrowful protests. Nobody wanted me to die; just like nobody wanted the foreign exchange students to leave for home. There were some who tried to assure me that it was not yet my time, and they would greet me again tomorrow at school.
When I got home my mother asked me if I had a nice day. “Yes,” I replied with a broad smile. “The best of days. It is so nice to have such good friends.” My mother smiled back and hugged me.
I shot myself in the head that night. I’m pretty sure the better half of my frontal lobe was patterned across my blue bedroom walls, but somehow, even after I sat there slumped like a discarded doll, I could still remember all of the basketball players and the actors and the honor roll students and the class clowns. I remembered those nice times of late night movie marathons and weekend trips to the river, the days at the arcade and the days at the park, shopping mall excursions and swimming pool bashes, and all of the slumber parties with those popular girls with their shiny hair and glossed lips.
Dying was so much better when surrounded by friends, I thought. People who talked to you, were interested in what you had to say, and people whom did not mind spending time with that girl who looked down when she walked.
In the school paper the following week there was an article about the girl who shot herself in the head. Everyone was very sad and silent and sort of unsettled. There was whispering in the halls;
“Did you know her?”
“No, but I heard that she had some really bad problems.”
“Well, I did know her, and I always knew there was something off.”
My friends did not keep up their end of the deal to remember me. Those school papers were crumpled and tossed in the trash bin or torn and used to keep a place in a book. At the end of the year all of the foreign exchange students left for home, and when September rolled around new ones arrived.
That next year at school a boy that I had World Geography with one time developed a condition—something to do with his blood platelets, which was not such good news. He told the people at school that he could very well die.
So everyone flocked to him like moths to a flame; flew right into the fire and burned down to little piles of ash. And the boy that I had World Geography with one time went to swimming pool bashes and spent nice days at the arcade, and he talked to the basketball players and the actors and the honor roll students and the class clowns.