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You feel kind of creepy, watching them like this. Normal people, you tell yourself, normal people do not stand at a distance and watch their best friends’ funeral from a hundred feet away. But you give yourself some credit- it’s been a long time since you were normal.
The cemetery is utterly silent, and as it happens, the silence is your worst enemy. It seeps in through every orifice in your body, and pulls apart the carefully woven responses, uncovering the ugly guilt and fear and remorse underneath. The silence hurts.
So you take out your iPod, stroke the screen, and it comes to life. Date. Time. Slide to unlock. Shove the headphones in your ears and drown out the stillness. You feel lightly guilty, and this mild discomfort is a massive relief to the normal monsters that rule your mind usually.
When the song comes on, you almost hit the ?? button. Almost send yourself away. Your finger hovers right there.
Seen your flag on the marble arch,
Love is not a victory march.
It’s a cold and it’s a broken
The drop lands smack dab on your thumb, and you stare at it for a few long moments. Then the sun reflects and you can’t help but look away, lest you let yourself be blinded by the light of it.
“It’s called the ring of fire,” she tells you, tracing her finger over the raised hills surrounding the blue, and you can hardly believe that in real life, these mountains augment above the rest of the world, dwarfing almost everything else on the planet.
“452 volcanoes, all around the Pacific Ocean. Forty thousand kilometres,” she continues, “Do you think I can do it, bud? Think I can see all of them?”
“That’s like way more than one a year,” you reply, attempting to introduce some rationality. Some quick math: “You’d have to see nine a year from when you were twenty to when you were seventy.”
“You don’t think I can do it?”
“I didn’t say that,” you smile, because you hate to bring gravity to her castle in the sky, “You can do anything. You’re amazing.”
The song changes, something better, but every effort you’ve made to get her out of your head is crumbling. Terrible, you think, that that’s your goal today. Don’t think about your dead best friend on her funeral. But the alternative is so much worse.
It’s winter, and she’s freezing. You can tell because she’s coughing and her lips are turning blue. You should do something, but you don’t.
“You should wear more clothes,” you tease her, only half-kidding. You’re walking back from dance; all she wears are thin pants and a windbreaker over her leotard.
“Oh shut up,” she replies pleasantly, unlocking the door and letting you both into her mansion.
As she slips her jacket off, something catches your eye. Something you haven’t seen before, not on her anyways.
“What the hell is that?” you demand, walking over to her, pulling the back of her leotard down, and it stares at you. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look half bad. She doesn’t move, doesn’t shrug you off as you run your fingers over the lightly raised bumps. A small, black outline of a heart. Nine little dots make a perfect little shape on the back of her ribcage.
“My own ring of fire,” she smiles happily, looking up at you, “Like it?”
Is it fair? you wonder, to be this sad when this is what she wanted? Is it fair to act like this is some big tragedy, to proceed like her last act on Earth was so awful and terrible? She made a choice, everyone makes choices. You don’t agree, you don’t wish she wasn’t gone. Right now, the very thought of it makes your stomach ache and you have to kneel down. You just wonder whether it’s fair.
She’s lying on her stomach on a flattened bed of daisies. No one comes up here, and no one knows why. You’d think an almost nauseatingly picturesque meadow would be crawling with tourists from May until September. But it’s not. You’re alone.
“Here,” she says, crawling over to you, settling the fragile crown of forget-me-nots on your head.
“Red,” you tease her, “That’s for girls. What are you doing?”
She snaps her head up, looks you straight in the eyes, “This is happy, Blue. Be happy now.”
An open window, a closed coffin. And all you can remember, all that matters, is, This is happy. Be happy now.