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Rest In Peace
It's official. Cops are the worst when it comes to comforting someone who has just experienced a tragic loss. In fact, it's very official. As official as those badges they wear, and their uniforms, as lights flashing blue red blue red blue, as official as failing to feel a pulse, a body bag.
(Oh God oh please please give him a pulse please God please please just a pulse please....) And where that pulse should be beneath your quivering fingertips isn't where it is, it's long gone, that life long gone and transferred to another body—so that's why my heart's beating so damn fast—and the skin stretched over his throat is as still and silent as the fucking grave, failing to move or twitch or acknowledge the tears dripping from a friend's chin to mingle painfully with lifeless blood. The pulse isn't there. (Check again, check again!) But you can't make something out of nothing.
Was it all even worth it? What a stupid mistake. What a bad idea.
"I saw him climbing with one hand, he had a bottle in the other.... That was a bad idea too."
"Did they ask about the trees in his pocket?"
"Nah, dude. And I wasn't gonna bring that shit up. Didn't want my f***in' car getting searched...."
"Hey. Come take a walk with me. My backpack is full of shit that I wanna ditch before the cops start asking questions. Quick. Turn around and see if anyone is following us...."
Stupid teens. We're all just stupid teens, and I wish we'd learn. It's taken one, two, three to bring us: Right Here. And are we learning? Ask his best friends, sitting in the back of his abandoned truck, reminiscing, smoking weed. Bravo. You're angry. You're all angry. And I get that. But still...if this isn't a sign for change, I don't know what is. And there you go, running in a circle like a dog chasing his tail, like a snake devouring himself, like water spinning down the drain. And next time these stupid actions, these bad ideas, bring about the same result, you'll ask yourself all the same questions that you're asking now ("Why? How?") and you'll sound like idiots because all you're doing is starting another sickening cycle.
Although I can't say I blame them. I'd like to be high now too if I were them. Sure as hell beats being THAT low. Because trust me, trust me, they're low. A low that's smeared mascara and running noses and red eyes—the innocent kind—and choking sobs and unanswered questions of, "Why him?" and "Why now?" It's below sadness, grief, depression.... I don't even think there's a word for it. It's almost a kind of insanity—sheer, unbridled pain. No costumes, no masks, no makeup.
"He decided he'd just jump, instead of lowering himself down. He just...slipped. And fell."
Two hundred feet of pure terror.
"We heard the scream. And that's when we knew...."
(Silent embraces and agonized sobs.)
Let me just say at this point, F*** the media. All of them—laughing, smiling, telling jokes, wandering around hungrily with their big fancy cameras, waiting for the perfect shot of a best friend crying, waiting for the name of the deceased, waiting for information and tears and just go f*** yourselves. We all wished we could snatch those hefty cameras and use them to wipe—preferably, beat—the smiles off the smug, perfumed faces of those devils.
"Well, they see this sort of thing every day. They have to have some way of coping—they must put on a façade."
Bullshit. The "façade" is disrespectful. No morally sound person stares Death in the face on a daily basis and is content wearing a pitiful façade. Those superior, self-righteous, lustful bastards. Wanting the next biggest story, the next best headline, probably willing to push the kid off a cliff yourself for the sake of getting to report the inside scoop, aren't you?
"Hey! Get over here, hurry up!"
"What's going on?"
"They're bringing out his body."
We stood there across the street from the cop cars—flashing blue red blue red blue—and the Search & Rescue team, standing below the mountain itself, staring at the trees and peaks and cliffs and setting sun, the sky turning slowly from one blue to another blue to another blue, fancy descriptive colors I don't care to name, and after what felt like years—painful, agonizing, destructive years—out it came. Just a big black bag strapped tightly onto a metal gurney, and all of them recognized that bag immediately as their friend. Melting to the ground, crying, screaming, begging God for answers. And what the f*** was I to do? How are you supposed to comfort someone when there's absolutely nothing you can do, nothing you can say, to solve the problem? He's gone, with no way of bringing him back. We all knew it. And what the f*** was I to do?
"We love you, man!"
They all called to the bag as it was lifted awkwardly into the back of a Search & Rescue vehicle, saying their goodbyes with tears running down their cheeks and darkening the black tar beneath them, making it look oily and sick. This was as much of a funeral as anyone needed: a modified casket, a modified grave, and loved ones surrounding it all, gasping out their farewells in voices unsuited for a church but perfectly suited for the great outdoors. Long after the bag disappeared, the crying wouldn't stop. And there stood the cops. Towering above my friends who had crumpled onto the pavement like they, too, had lost their lives, and just standing there...watching. Not saying anything, wearing hard expressions, not even leaning over to pat a shaking shoulder in partial reassurance.... Yeah, I get it, your job is tough, and you have to be strong, but after dealing with this sort of tragedy and loss on a day-to-day basis, you'd think they'd have done some test runs by now, found out what you can say that might comfort someone, what not to say, etc.
But then again. The look in that cop's eyes said to me, "And what the f*** am I to do?"
Maybe they're not so bad at comfort. Maybe they're just as lost as I was.
All of a sudden, darkness falling, we hear a wail to threaten the gods.
"Shit...his parents are here."
And finally. After hours of waiting, his family had arrived. I hope I never again have to witness so much concentrated pain. Because there, in the middle of all that natural Colorado beauty that so many New Yorkers coveted, envied, she cried the two most unnatural words in the world. They echoed through the canyon, playing and replaying—the record's stuck—bouncing off giant rock walls and whistling through the branches of trees, entering my ears and entering them again, entering my heart and entering all of our hearts, finally satisfied with the damage it's caused and heading up to a dark turquoise heaven to torment God and to say goodbye to her boy, only nineteen years old; she cried, "My baby!"
Over and over and over again. The two most unnatural words in the world. Because your baby should never be gone before you are.
Another hour later and we all felt like zombies. None of us knew what to say. It was like Death had taken more than one great friend; He'd taken a little piece of all of them as well. He'd taken the piece that their late friend had put there, had built and molded himself—we are all shaped by our experiences, by those we love, and those we hate. And now that he was gone, what he had shaped in all of them was gone, too.
Walking down the side of the road in the dark, it all felt so unreal. And so damn stupid. Looking up at the sky: "It's f***ing beautiful, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It is. He's up there now."
And all of it was just so cliché. We were speaking lines taken straight out of movies, all of us unwilling actors, wanting this scene to end. We said what we could, we said what we did. And it felt rehearsed.
It felt unreal.
"Goodbye man. We love you."