All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
My hands are shaking. They always shake when I’m furious, and now they are vibrating with the intensity of an angry ocean tide against the shore. They are shaking so hard that the picture I am holding is in danger of being airborne- carried away with the wind, forever out of sight. God, do I wish that the picture would just fly away and take all that it represents with it. If Ronnie was here, she would take my large hands into her smaller ones and kiss away the rage- as if her soft, perfect lips could just absorb my problems. And the funny thing is that they did. With one caress, she could turn my world around- complete 180. Whether I was angry or upset, it only took one soulful look from Ronnie to fix everything. And now she is gone, and my hands are shaking, and the rage is slowly clouding my vision, and I don’t have her with me to kiss away what will eventually consume me. All I have now is this picture to remember her by, one small memento to remind me every day of my life of what I have lost- what I can never, ever get back.
With no thought, I crumple the black-and-white newspaper clipping and throw it as far as I can, which isn’t far, because problems can never truly be thrown away- they get caught in the wind and litter the path before you. All I can do now is sit here, on the park bench, and stare at it, wishing that Ronnie had let me take a picture of her so that I would have a picture to remember her by- not a picture of her killer. If I had a picture of her, I would be able to see the curl in her brown hair once again, and for a moment I could pretend my face was still nestled in her crown, inhaling her strawberry scented conditioner. If I had a picture of her, I could pretend that she was still resting against my chest, her breath tickling my neck. But if I had a picture of her, I wouldn’t be able to pretend anything, because a picture of Ronnie would not be Ronnie. That’s what she said to me, when I had tried to take a picture of her. She turned to me, and covered the camera lens, “A picture of me is not actually me, and if you ever get lonely, I want you to come and find me, not just look at a picture of me.” How could she have known that she would be leaving me?
I have been sitting on this park bench too long, so I get up and head for my truck. Ah, my truck. How many memories do I have inside its cab? So many, they would outnumber the flowers at Ronnie’s funeral, for sure. It was in this truck that we went to our first date in. I still remember it- we went to see a movie. I don’t recall the movie, because all I could think about was her. She was wearing a light summer dress with her hair long. Most guys don’t remember details like that, but I do- it was the first time that I could claim the beautiful Ronnie Boomer as my own. I had wanted that for a long time.
You see, Ronnie was my angel. I was a stupid kid before I met her, experimenting with drugs and drinking away whatever future I had. I also had an anger problem- still do- that would flair up at the most inconvenient times, but all that changed the day that Ronnie walked into my life- literally. I had been drinking and had, unsurprisingly, ended up in a fight when she walked by. Being Ronnie, she got into the action and broke us up. I took a hard hit in the jaw, and she fixed me up. I remember thinking, as I watched her fuss over my scrapes, that she seemed really… nice. Genuinely nice. And for some reason, she wanted to be my friend- the no good scum bag off the street, and she wanted to be my friend. I personally wanted to be more than friends, but she stood her ground. Maybe that’s what I liked her so much, because she was so genuine, unique, pure. Anyhow, with her friendship I was able to take a good hard look at myself and I slowly changed into a better person.
Or so I thought. Now, with my hands gripping my steering wheel to keep them from flapping, I have to wonder if I really have changed, or if I simply allowed Ronnie to be a sort of bandage to my bullet hole of a life. It seems to me, in my almost blinding rage, that perhaps the old Todd is still inside of me, waiting to get free. The scariest part is that, I want him to.
I race onto the freeway. Traffic is minimal today- school is still in. I should probably be there, but nothing seems important to me anymore. The only thing I want to do is drive- really, really fast. And so I do. The other cars of the freeway pass by like inanimate objects in comparison to my speed. I am flying so fast, it almost scares me- almost. In the state I am in, nothing scares me. It’s like I am watching from outside my body, watching myself slowly succumb to the part of me that has died. That part of me, he has no emotions, no cares, no worries. That part of myself, he knows exactly what to do, and it is just too easy to give in and let the Dead Todd take control. The Dead Todd doesn’t think, and so he doesn’t feel- and all I want right now is to stop feeling. Stop feeling like a part of my heart is being torn out of my chest, like the world is settling in the base of my lungs, like nothing will ever make sense again.
I let myself go so far, I just barely hear the sirens. They come just in time- had they turned on minutes later, I don’t know if I ever would have heard them or anything else again. That’s what happens when you lose yourself- the world just slips away, and it could be gone forever, or just a few minutes. Without thinking, I pull my ruster over to the side of the road and wait, feeling slightly ashamed, for the officer to stroll up to my window.
“Key kid,” I hear from my left, a slight tap on my window announcing the officer’s presence, “you know how fast you were going?”
I turn, knowing full well that I look wasted, and give a slight shake of my head “No sir, I don’t. I wasn’t paying much attention.”
“Well, you was going too fast, kiddo. License and registration please.” He says, a slight Boston accent weighting his words. I hand over my information, all the while thinking about Ronnie- she was from Boston.
While I wait for the ticket, I pull out a new air freshener and wrap the elastic around my mirror- strawberry scented. Ronnie always complained that my truck smelled like old whiskey and dirt, so she bought me a freshener. As if strawberries could mask the smell of under washed carpets and pure manliness. I only used a freshener to make her happy, because I loved her. Since she has been gone, the old one ran out of scent, and she wasn’t here to change it. Now, the smell warms my nostrils and for a moment, she is still here, tucked beneath my arm. We’re watching the sun set, or playing “I spy”. But we really aren’t, because she is gone. What would she think of me, sitting in my own shame, knowing full well I was going 160 in a 90 zone? After all that we have been through, after all I have changed? She would probably grab my hand and kiss my palm and tell me everything was going to be okay, it was a mistake, and I would probably smile and never speed again. But she’s not here, and my hand is cold, and I am alone.
A grunt brings me back to the situation at hand, and I meet the Boston Cop’s gaze. “I’ve been standin’ here for five minutes boy. Where’d ya go?”
“Just some personal stuff…”
“That girly of yours, huh? Heard about that, deader than a stump. Darn sorry to hear about that, son- she was a sweet one. Tutor’d my kid sometimes.” He leaned his chubby arm against my door, “Well, see here, I’m going to let you off, even though I really shouldn’t. But, you’re under a lot of stress right now- just don’t do it again. You understand me?”
“Yeah.” I answered curtly. My hands start to shake on my steering wheel.
There was a time when I might have given that brainless officer a piece of my mind. That time was before I met Ronnie, who never cussed and would lay out those who did. She worked swearing out of me like a needle out of one’s finger- quick, decisively, and mercilessly. She was such a delicate person- sweet and caring, small in stature and slight boned- but her tongue could lash anyone in a six foot radius. She was even more beautiful when she was mad, because her sea blue eyes would widen and her small mouth would tighten. When she was mad, she wasn’t worrying about what she looked like, so I got to see the side of her that was crazy with passion and driven by desire. Sometimes I would push her buttons purely on the hopes that she would rant at me. Girls, a man will drive you crazy, but it’s only because you are more beautiful when you are crazy. There’s just something about a girl that ignites when she is mad.
Maybe avoiding a confrontation with the police officer is a sign that I really have changed. Maybe, it shows that Ronnie is living in me, still hoping for me- maybe I really am a good person. But maybe it merely means that I was too busy choking on the words ‘deader than a stump’ to care. Until now, I could only think of Ronnie, my sweet Ronnie, as gone. Now that he has ripped out the truth, I will have to accept it. Ronnie is… dead.
Ronnie is dead. Ronnie is dead, and she isn’t ever coming back. If she was gone, maybe there would be a hope that she was coming back. If she is dead, then she will never come back to me, and I have to move on. If Ronnie is dead, I have to pretend like I don’t miss her perfect smile, the curve of her waist, the way she made my heart beat thick and fast- like it were drunk. If Ronnie is dead, I can’t pretend that she is coming back.
If Ronnie is dead, then who am I?
Once again on the freeway, I make a U-turn. This time puttering just under the speed limit, I make my way towards the address I have written on my palm. I don’t know why I did it, I just did. Maybe I knew that things were going to turn out this way. And I wrote the address down on the palm Ronnie would caress oh so often, because it seemed fitting that the address of her killer be written there. He was the only link between my palm and Ronnie’s kiss- he was the one that took her away. And now I was driving there, so that he could amend it, and if he couldn’t, I had something in my glove compartment that would amend it for him.
The day that Ronnie’s killer walked, I could hardly breathe. His scumbag lawyer had caught the cops on a fault- something like they didn’t read him his rights when they canned him. He was so smug, strutting out of the court house like some sort of hero, posing for the news cameras- there were so many of them. After all, it was a small city, and it wasn’t every day that a drunk driver crash landed into an innocent bystander. Everyone was outraged, headlines completely sacrificed the court the next day, but it eventually died down- after all, she was dead, and he walked. But, Gosh, I couldn’t breathe for the longest time afterwards. They always came in short, hiccupping spurts, as if I couldn’t breathe deeply or else it would mean that I accepted what had become of Ronnie’s trial. And I couldn’t accept it. That’s why, almost a month later, I find myself outside of his house with a gun in my jacket pocket, because it isn’t right that he is at home while she is in the ground.
The boy that answered the door isn’t the same kid I remember from court. The boy from court was clean, shaven, and dressed in a suit. The kid I find in front of me, maybe a year my junior, is unkempt and slightly buzzed. I had heard he was suspended, but I didn’t actually expect him to be at home.
“Who are you?” He asks, his hung over eyes squinting at the sunlight, head cocked away slightly. Completely unsuspecting.
Those words are enough to set me off. How could he not know who I was? Didn’t he scour the web, reading up on the girl he had brutally and horrifically killed? Didn’t he stare for hours at her online yearbook photos, wondering about the life he had ended? How could he not know everything about her? I knew everything about him. I knew every last detail about his juvie record, his 27 alcohol tickets, his last DUI. I knew his middle name, favorite movie, and ‘favorite middle school memory’. Got to love the internet.
As I swing at him, the only words running through my mind are, God I hope no one else is home, but it wouldn’t have mattered. I could take on an army of stringy haired punks with the rage I have pent up inside of me. Every last muscle is pulsating with bitterness, and my only intention is to deliver it. I punch and kick and flail with all I have in me. I can hear the runt cussing, faintly, but it only fuels the beast inside of me. It seems like hours- eons maybe- go by as I pelted that kid with everything I have in me, but it only could have been a few minutes. If it had been hours, he would be dead. Surprisingly, those few minutes are all that is needed to empty me. I wasn’t bottling up only my anger, but my grief as well.
And that is why, only minutes after busting through his door, I submerged from my rage and find myself pinned beneath the runt, sobbing. I cry for the first time since Ronnie died, and the flood comes from the darkest part of me. Now that I truly let the Dead Todd take over, I find that he wasn’t dead, he was suffering. He was mourning the loss of the only person who had found him to be good enough- the only one who cared. He was dying, because the part of himself that had flourished with Ronnie’s love was still there- without Ronnie. That Todd cried long and hard, realizing that Ronnie was forever gone, and that he missed her.
“It was sunny.” I whispered through the sobs.
“What was sunny?” The kid asked, his voice weak, probably wondering what in the world was going on.
“The day of her funeral. It was sunny. She died, and the sun shone on the day we said goodbye!” My sobs gave way to shouts. “Why was it sunny?!”
“I don’t know!” He shrieked, tension giving away to tension.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know, you’ve got to! You took her!” I screamed, rage once again drawing red curtains up the edges of my vision, and my palm feels colder than ever.
“What do you want from me!?”
Sirens, in the distance, start their nasally whine, and I know the kid has called the cops. For the first time in a long time, I cuss. From underneath the kid’s weight, I feel something pressing uncomfortably into my side- the gun. I throw the kid off of me in one last desperate attempt to make everything right. I rip the gun from my pocket, its telltale shine catching the kid’s eye, and he backs away.
“I- I’m sorry…” He whines.
“Davie, you want to make everything right? Are you really sorry?” The words are catching in my throat.
“Yeah, I’m really sorry, really! I didn’t know! I didn’t see her…” He starts to cry a bit.
I hold the gun out, the metal cold in my hand, “Then end it, Davie! I can’t do this anymore!” I yell, as I throw the gun at his feet. “Please, just let me be with her again!”
Davie looks at the gun, lying at his feet, with indignation. “You want me to what!?”
“Just end me, Davie. I can’t do it anymore!” I am pleading now, nose once again inches from the floor. I wish he would just shut up and pick up that gun… “You took her away, so now you’re the only one who can bring her back to me. Just do it, please…” My voice is barely a whisper.
Suddenly, the smell of strawberries fills my senses. I close my eyes, breathing it in. Sweet strawberries, like the hand lotion Ronnie carried around in her purse. It is comforting and familiar- Ronnie was the smell of strawberries. The supernatural musk envelopes me, and I can only sit in it, thinking back on everything she meant to me. She gave me a purpose. She was my outlet- in her, I found myself. I could finally find the person I had always wanted to be when I was with her. She was my first, and last, love- my soul mate. She was the one who had cared about me, believed in me and, in turn, loved me back. She was my everything. It hurt to not be with her. It hurt every part of me that I was alive and she was not, but this smell… It brought everything into perspective. Maybe it was her soul, come to say her last goodbye, or maybe it was my imagination, wanting desperately to find closure, but this final sensation brings a peace to my heart like nothing else could. Alcohol, drugs, fighting- nothing from my past could have brought such peace as this smells does now. It is a final goodbye, and a permission to continue on.
I don’t fight when the police officer grinds my nose into the hardwood floor. I don’t struggle as he gruffly cuffs my limp hands behind my back. I don’t listen when the officer rambles off my rights with gross familiarity and plops me into his cruiser. All I can focus on is the sweet aroma tickling my memories, and the warmth that fills my palm- like a kiss- and a feeling that everything will be alright.