Nobody knew who Lisa Manning was until she died. That’s the weird thing about dying, I think ... all of a sudden, everybody remembers great stuff about you and you have more friends than you ever did when you were alive. That’s just the way it is most of the time. But with Lisa, it was different. For at least a week, none of us even missed her. I, at least, knew something was different, but that was only because Lisa sat right in front of me in social studies and all of a sudden I had a better view of the blackboard. Other than that, her absence went just as unnoticed as her presence had. Nobody stopped each other in the halls to ask, “Hey, where’s Lisa?” Her friends, if she had any, were just as quiet as Lisa and if they walked past us on our way to class, we did not recognize them.
It wasn’t until my friend Matt told me that Lisa’s dad was being held on charges of child abuse that her empty desk had any reason to matter.
“So, when’s she coming back to school?” I asked. Matt didn’t go to my school, but his mom knew Mrs. Manning from church. “Carly,” Matt looked at me, and his face was so serious it scared me. “Carly, Lisa’s dead.”
I don’t think I cried. Sure, I was sad, but sad is always the way you feel when someone dies. It was the same kind of sad as when you see the obituary page in the newspaper or a dead rabbit on the road. It’s too bad and you realize for a moment how unfair life is, but then you turn the page or turn the corner and the sadness doesn’t stick with you.
When Matt left, my dad came and sat on the garden bench with me and explained a lot of things about Lisa and her dad. He said that if I wanted to talk about it, he would be there for me. I said okay. And we went inside for dinner.
The next day, right in the middle of social studies, I looked at Lisa’s desk and saw for the first time that she had stuck little angel stickers along one of its edges. I suddenly knew that I was going to throw up, and I also knew that Mr. Manning was the most horrible person ever, worse than terrorists or Hitler or the nurse who gives me my shots or anybody else.
Mom had to come and pick me up, and when she walked into the nurse’s office, I threw myself into her arms and burst into tears. It was the first time I’d cried about it. I cried all the way home, and that night I stayed up too late staring at the walls and trying to remember what Lisa’s face looked like and what color her eyes had been and what kind of clothes she had worn and when the last time I had seen her was. But I couldn’t. All I could remember was what the back of her head looked like and the way her dad had winked at me when he was bagging my mom’s groceries three weeks ago.
I went to school the next day; there was no real reason for me to stay home. I sat there in social studies and stared at the row of angels on Lisa’s desk and wished that the janitor would peel them off and wished that I knew all the quiet kids who never looked me in the eye and wished that Lisa had known how to ask for help and wished that I could cry. Just cry, right there in front of everybody, because suddenly I knew how temporary everything is.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.