Wish You Were Here

January 20, 2011
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It’s incredible what a heightened awareness we obtain in our most vulnerable moments. As I lay on the damp, hard asphalt and take my last few breaths, the sound of black birds cawing above my head beat like a kettle drum between my ears. Snow is falling, time seems to stop. One last gust of icy wind seems to frost over my soul, and I am gone.

Three days later

The normally quiet town of James Port was overly crowded on this night, January 4, 2009. Streets were gridlocked, people on street corners were packed in like sardines, and still, there was a deafening hush over Main Street. The last time the town had come together into such a powerful mass was their Christmas parade a few weeks prior. This time, it was not for celebration, but in mourning over the loss of a precious, innocent life.
On this Tuesday night, all of the friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances who had been a part of Lindsay Ristelli’s short life gathered at the Sycamore funeral home in her honor. Even from her cherry wood casket Lindsay looked shockingly beautiful, the deep scar through her right temple being her only imperfection. Her thick, chocolate curls framed her strong, squared jaw; sapphire gems lost forever behind locked eye lids. Her olive skin glowed, the only light shinning on this tragic situation.

Unlike the wakes of family members, who may have died peacefully of old age where attendees reminisce on good memories, accomplishments, and the long life of the deceased, there was no happiness on main street that night. Sure, unforgettable memories had been made, but Lindsay had been taken at the painfully young age of 17. She had set goals for her self, and had had dreams to accomplish. Now she was gone. She would never have the chance to finish her senior year of high school, never be able pay her parents back for her jeep, never start a family of her own, never get the chance to live her life to its highest potential. All who had loved her were, to put it bluntly, devastated.

Meghan Duler and Angie Gleeson knelt in front of the casket all night long. This night was the last time they would ever see the missing third of their terrific trio. Crocodile tears had been flowing from their swollen eyes, and yet, they were silent. These were not wracking, over-dramatic sobs of hysteria. The girls simply could not stop the tears, in realization that Lindsay was really never coming back.

Oh…my goodness… The entire town is here all because of me. I don’t even recognize some of them! I always thought about how many people would come to my funeral (although I hadn’t dreamed it would be this soon), and I never imagined there would be half as many people here. Things are not as they should be tonight. Even my little cousins, toddlers who are constantly running around like chickens with their heads cut off, have tear-stained cheeks. Oh no, Megs and Ang. They’re a wreck. I hate to see them in such grief. I wish I could just talk to them one more time.. let them know how much they really mean to me.. the very best friends that I’ve ever had…

“I can’t believe she’s really gone” Meghan whispers, after a glance at the picture on her dash of herself, Angie, and Lindsay at a carnival only a few months ago. Now, this moment seems to be pushed years into her past.
“No more movie nights. No more trips to Manhattan. No more baking cookies.” Angie is growing hysterical.

“No more dance parties no more boy talk no more--”
“ENOUGH ALREADY!” Meghan cuts her off abruptly.
Her shiny, black Santa Fe grows unsettlingly silent. As she continues driving down the deserted, snow covered street, a meandering route with inadequate lighting, Meghan realizes how easy it would be to just lay her foot on the gas pedal, close her eyes, and calmly take her hands off the steering wheel—she could easily end all her pain and suffering right here, right now. She wonders if this is the same way Lindsay felt when she decided to take her life.
“Why do you think she did it?” Angie had clearly been wondering the same thing
“I…I don’t know. Could it ha..have been..us?” Meghans voice shook.
“No way Megs. We were her best friends. That’s crazy”
“Didn’t you see the way she was acting at the party? She was freaked out..”

“Yeah but--”
“And you just HAD to keep pushing her. She wanted to leave and you wouldn’t let her Ang!”
“ME?!?! Weren’t YOU the one who tricked her into going in the first place?! You knew she wouldn’t want to go so you tricked her into it. The whole thing was your selfish idea!”
“I wasn’t the one who kept pressuring her. You made her lie to her parents.”
“You actually lied straight to their FACE Megs! You’re delusional!”

What?! They think I got into a car ACCIDENT on PURPOSE?!? That doesn’t make any sense. No, none at all! Why would I have killed myself? I know when I left the party Friday night I had been mad, but they really think I’m that volatile? That impulsive?! I thought they knew me better than THAT! Lindsay Ristelli dead by intentional car crash. That…is disgusting… I know how terrible Meghan and Angie must feel, but my death is not their fault. It was an accident—I did NOT commit suicide! I need to make them see that..

As Meghan and Angie approached the meandering, gated drive at the Ristelli’s house, apprehension was in the air. This would be there first time going to the house when Lindsay wouldn’t be there. Meghan put the car in park in front of the three-car garage, and the two sat silently for a moment.
“You ready Ang?”
They got out of the car anyway and approached the massive red, wooden door—an Italian flag twisted violently in the whipping wind. Before Angie could even knock on the door, Lindsay’s mom, a painful image of their deceased friend, answer the door; her strong tanned face overcome with a cold, hard expression.
“Hi Mrs. Ristelli..” the girls trailed off, her unwelcoming expression making their previous thoughts of apprehension necessary.
“Hi, Meghan. Angela. Can I do something for you” she was visibly stiff, her frigid words pushing the girls away.
“Oh, We just came to talk. See how you guys are holding up.”
“Well we’re fine thank you.” With that, Lindsay’s mom shut the door in their face. They heard the clicking of a lock activating. Angie started banging on the door.
This time, it was Colin, Lindsay’s twin brother, who came to the door. Like his mother, he was a perfect image of his sister—Lindsay in boy form. And interestingly enough he was Meghan’s ex-boyfriend; her first love. Things had ended badly, and tensions were high. Especially now. Sullen cheeks and grayed eyes, it was clear he had lost his pretty-boy shine.
“What are you doing here Megs. You’re obviously not welcome. Can’t you take the hint?”
“Colin please, its okay. She was my best friend. I feel your pa—“
“NO YOU DON’T! This is YOUR FAULT!” He interrupted. “You have NO idea what this family is going through! And all because of the two of you. Get out of here Meghan. Don’t come back.”
With a door slammed in their faces and tears welling up in their eyes, the girls left the Ristelli’s property, defeated. As they drove once more the length of the meandering drive, the little Santa Fe was gaining speed quickly. Too quickly. By this time both girls were hysterical, especially Meghan. The car pulled up to Angie’s house with a skidding stop.
“Are you gunna be alright Megs? I can come over if you want”
“No. I’m fine.”
“Come on Meghan let’s go see a movie or something.”
“Angela I said I’m fine. Get out.”
From her shortness with words and the way she called her by her full name let Angie know that Meghan was absolutely not okay, but her seriousness made her sure that there was nothing she could do—her friend needed time alone to figure out her thoughts. She backed away from the car slowly as her best friend, the last one she had, raced away. Maybe she would have to get used to flying solo.

When she finally reached the little cemetery on the corner of Main and Bay, Meghan practically fell out of her car. The pain from losing her best friend met with the sting of hatred from the boy she loves was all too much for her to handle. She carried herself, drowning in hysterics, to the freshest laid headstone in the flat burying ground.
“Linds I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. I need you here right now so badly. I miss you. I’m so sorry. You’re my best friend. I love you.”

Why is all this happening? I love Meghan too much, it KILLS me to see her like this. I would give anything to make her happy, and now there’s nothing I can do. Nothing… How can I show her that this was NOT her fault. Just a little black ice. That’s ALL. I need to fix the mess I made.

The coolness of the afternoon and the burn of wind against her tear-stained cheeks calmed her down enough to drag her limp body from the damp grass in front of Lindsay’s headstone to her car. She may have been calm, but her emotions were still completely out of control. None of it mattered. Upon starting her car and driving away, lost in the eerie silence of her own twisted thoughts, Meghan laid her foot on the gas pedal with eyes closed and rested her hands in her lap, just as Lindsay had done, she thought.

This is not happening this is not happening this is not happening this can NOT be happening! I need to do something now! I couldn’t be saved, but I need to help Meghan. This is not her time.

As her Santa Fe gained more speed, and then more still, all she could think about were memories of her gorgeous, perfect best friend. She knew know that she could not go on without her any longer. Just as she started to realize how soon she would be with Lindsay again, Meghan felt as if her car was slowing down. Looking at the speedometer, she saw how quickly she was losing speed. A moment later, she came to a gentle stop in the middle of the meandering road. Initially overcome with anger and confusion, Meghan fumbled with the keys to start her car again. The Santa Fe remained in its same spot on the road, but the radio, which had been silent on her wild ride, came blasting through the speakers. She recognized the powerful tune right away—“Wish You Were Here” by Incubus.

Meghan slowly opened her door and sunk down in the middle of the deserted back road. After a long moment filled with forlorn tears, something caught her eye—a gold twinkle. She looked up to see a tall golden cross leaning against a spilt telephone pole, surrounded by flowers and pictures of her best friend. Slowly, she picked herself up and walked over to the roadside memorial, knelt at the cross and prayed.

As Meghan kneeled in front of Lindsay’s photograph, her car radio still blasting its dramatic ballad, and her car miraculously stalled just before a hidden patch of black ice, snow began to fall. Time, once again, seemed to stop at this bend in the road. She could feel her presence around her—Lindsay was here. Now she understood, this was a terrible accident. Meghan had been saved, it had not been her time. She needed to stay on this Earth and live her life to the absolute fullest, in honor of her best friend. With one last embrace of the familiar wind, the falling snow stopped, as did the music. The Santa Fe revved its engine on cue. Meghan got in the drivers seat and drove away, radio blasting once again, her speedometer reading just barely 40 mph.

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