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The police station gets a call in the middle of the night. I hop into my patrol car, trying to think of the location of the address. The siren blares as I tear across the darkness. I repeat the address in my head, praying I’m not too late. But I am.
When I pull up to the house the paramedics are already there. Rushing into the house, I arrive at a bedroom. A paramedic desperately attempts CPR, but it is too late. There is no pulse. She’s been gone for a while now.
I stare down at the teenage girl’s pale, lifeless body. Her brown hair is fanned across the floor, her eyes closed.
A woman in a bath robe stands in the corner sobbing hysterically. A man holds her as tears run down his face.
“Not my little girl!” he cries. “No! NO!”
I assume they are the victim’s parents. I’ve been a police officer for nearly twenty five years but I still can’t get a grip on this type of situation. I’m unable to move in attempt to comfort the parents. After all, nothing I say is going to bring their daughter back.
Judging by the pills and empty liquor bottles on the floor there is no way the girl’s small body could have survived. It was a suicide. No doubt. A folded up note is taped to an empty bottle of booze that lay close to the girl’s hand. If the pills didn’t kill her the alcohol poisoning did.
I start to tear up. The girl was beautiful. I looked at the photographs scattered around the room. Her smile seemed so full of life. What caused her to break?
Suicide calls are never easy, especially when they’re young. From the looks of it, she was in high school. She had so much to live for, even if she didn’t think so.
I watch as they zip the body bag. My heart breaks once for the girl and once for her family and friends.
Unable to do much of anything now, I give my condolences to her parents and exit the house.
I sit in the patrol car, parked in the driveway, staring at the dash. I wonder if the girl’s an angel now, watching from Heaven, regretting the pain she just caused.
I reach for my cell phone. I dial the number carefully as the ambulance backs away. The clock in the car reads 3:07 AM. On the forth ring he answers.
“Hello?” his voice is tired.
“Hi son, how are you. It’s Dad.”
“Hi Dad, is something wrong?” he is a little more awake now.
“No. I just want you to know how much you mean to me. I don’t ever want you to forget that. Okay?”
“Um, alright,” He mutters.
“Okay well I’ll let you go. I’m sorry to wake you.”
“Son, I love you.”
“I love you too.” He adds before hanging up.
Sometimes you take things for granted. You get so caught up in life that sometimes people fall through the cracks unnoticed. No one should ever go unnoticed.
Everyone and everything has a breaking point. At some point everything falls apart. And it happened that May morning I got news of Riley’s death in homeroom. Everyone is crying, teachers and students, even people that didn’t really know her. I run out of homeroom, hardly making it to the bathroom before I vomit.
“She can’t be dead.” I repeat to myself over and over until I almost believe it. But my mind knows I’m lying and I puke again. I fall to the ground beside the toilet. After some time I hear footsteps and the single stall door opens and the principle tells me to go home.
For the next week I don’t bother to talk to anyone except Riley, the dead Riley. I’m caught up in a CSI case in my head, except it’s so personal that it starts to wear me down.
I ask her questions.
“Why? What caused you to fall apart? How long where you walking around, tied together by a smile? Why didn’t you tell anyone? Why did you leave me? Didn’t you know I loved you? Didn’t you know I f***ing loved you?” But they remained unanswered. She was gone.
I went through a whirlwind of emotions as the world seemed to carry on. The sorrow didn’t disappear, but it faded as it brewed into anger. I was livid with how she left so many people broken, how she thought this was the only solution.
But I couldn’t stand being bitter. Because I knew that she hurt. She hurt enough to think that no one cared and no one would notice if she went away forever. She hurt so badly, and to her, suicide seemed like the only solution to end the pain. But she was wrong. And maybe I’m partly to blame; I should have tried harder to make her feel special. She was so important to me, but I never took the risk to tell her, because I was scared. And now I missed my chance.
As years went by I managed to accept the past and move on. Yes, I wish with everything I have that I could have stopped her, but I can’t change anything but the future. It shouldn’t take someone dying to realize this but, never take a wonderful person for granted. Don’t assume they already know how you feel about them. And even if they do, some things are worth repeating.
No one wants to out live their child. No father should be forced to pick out a casket for their daughter before she picks out a wedding dress. I’m regularly woken up in the middle of the night haunted by old memories. But I don’t mind, because the last thing I want to do is forget what she once was.
I remember clearly, the day my wife broke the news that she was pregnant. Both a rush of excitement and fear ran through my mind. Finally, I was going to be a father. But how would I manage to keep another human alive. I would have to teach them about the dangers of talking to strangers, and drugs and love. But I never thought that sometimes yourself is the biggest danger. I hold on to the little things, because they are what matter the most. Her favorite color, her laugh, the way a single strand of hair was lighter than the rest, even when she dyed it. Sometimes, I can still smell the scent of her vanilla perfume when I walk into her bedroom.
Occasionally, I force myself to envision the night of her death. How she wrote out the suicide note, her hands shaking, tears rolling down her face and dripping on to the paper and mixing with ink. I try to imagine what was going on in her head each time she took a pill and washed it down with whiskey. It's pure h*ll but I need to understand.
I talk to the sky, hoping she hears me. I tell her I’m sorry for not noticing that she was falling apart. And I apologize for allowing her to think that she was worthless for even a minute. I tell her I love her and I miss her.
I wish I could see her again. I wish I was there sooner. I would pull her close to me. I would kiss her on the forehead; and I would tell her “You’re too young to think it’s never going to get better.”