The Wilting Rose

February 24, 2010
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“Rose,” I said meekly looking into her sunken face, “What happened to you?” At this, she looked up from her newspaper and stared at me with an intensity that could have set the world on fire.

“Life,” She replied simply, “Life happened.”

That was the last time we ever spoke. I remember leaving her there on the street that day, 15 years ago and feeling completely helpless. That was my best friend, sitting under that makeshift tent. Somewhere in those empty eyes, was the girl I used to know. I see her from time to time and often think about picking her up and bringing her home with me, but I know that that isn’t what she wants. She likes it there, in the comfort of her escape and I am too prideful and she, too stubborn for anything to change.

Rosie and I met the summer of my seventh grade year at Harvard Middle School. Her family was new to Charlotte, but it didn’t take long for them to become regulars at every diner and thrift store in town. From the moment we met, we became inseparable. People knew us as “Rose and Ellie”; you just couldn’t have one, without the other. I remember long summer days by the pool, laughing and playing cards and cold, airy nights spent looking up at the stars, imagining what life could be. Everything was better when we were together, she was my best friend and I loved her—I love her and that will never change.

Rosie had the voice of a thousand angels, there were times when she would sing to me and make my whole world feel like warm honey. When we started high school, she put that god given talent to good use by joining the concert choir. I remember taking front row at every concert and just listening as her smooth voice swim through steady rivers and roll over tumbling hills. That’s what made her special. Rosie’s family had its issues, there was no doubt about that, but Rosie was a shining star. When she was on that stage, there was a light in her eyes that glistened for miles. Every now and then I find myself wishing that I could find that light and hoping that at the end of it, Rosie would be standing there with a smile on her face telling me that everything was okay, but I learned long ago that wishing and hoping for things doesn’t make them come true.
Rosie was the crazy one out of the two of us. Whenever we were in trouble for something, it was because Rosie had come up with another one of her bright ideas and I had been convinced to go along with it. I was always the one with the self-control and restraint and that is still the case today. I often found that without me to tell her when to much was too much, Rosie wound up in situations that weren’t good for anyone, especially her. Looking back on things now, a lot of the decisions I watched her make, scared me. I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t stuck with her all those years.

I remember her first line of coke; we were 15. Joshua Collins had convinced us to come to one of his wild "ragers" and reluctantly I had agreed. They sat in big circle around his parents oak dinning room table and took turns getting high. When it came to me, I simply sat there unsure of what to do.

“Well take it Ellie.” Rose had said looking at me with longing in her eyes. She hated being alone. She always needed me to show her that what she was doing was okay, but I wouldn’t, not this time.

“I won’t,” I said to her crossing my arms and looking at her sternly.

“Fine then, be a party pooper,” she said grabbing the hit with hesitation. She took one final glance in my direction and then at the coke in front of her before snorting it. That was all it took. Things between the two of us were never the same. Coke became Rosie’s substitute for our friendship. Every time Joshua Collins talked about one of his parties, Rose insisted on going and I went for a while, but there came a point in time when I began to say “no” and when that happened, the distance between us grew. Eventually, it began to appear as if we had never been friends at all. While Rosie continued on her downward spiral of drug use and alcoholism, I went on to make new friends and try new things. As much as it hurt me to leave her behind, I can’t say that I regret it. Rosie wanted the carefree life, a place to escape her pain. I just couldn’t allow myself to fall into that dark place with her. Not then, and not now.

There was one moment in particular when it really set in that Rosie had a problem. I was walking down the hall, with my usual crowd when I saw her, standing like a shadow against a wall. Her once beautiful blue eyes, now exhibited the color of murky pond water, her hair, once a brilliant shade of crimson, now had the appearance of being tossed into a washing machine. The worst part of it all was the way her overly skinny body hung limply as if begging to be brought down. When I saw her then, I remember thinking, that’s my best friend, I have to help her and yet, I kept walking and never looked back. Until now. Rosie stopped coming to choir practice and eventually, school all together. When drugs were around, everything in Rosie’s life seemed to take second place. The drugs had become a part of who she was. No music, family, or friend, could give her that same pleasure. My Rosie, my Rose, once beautiful and whole, now lay cracked and dying for the world to see.

I miss my Rose. It makes me cry to think of all the things that I could have done to save her and know that instead, I did nothing and now, it’s too late. My Rose is lost forever. I often find myself wandering up to the attic to find the pictures of what things used to be. It makes me cry when I realize how things have changed. I used to imagine a future where Rosie and I would marry and have kids and watch our children frolic together. Now I’m fearful of what would happen if my kids knew about Rosie and how things came to be.
I know a girl who once stood proudly in front of a crowd of people and sang the room to tears. I remember her well, but that’s all that’s left…a memory.

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