22 Paintings This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

September 29, 2011
By , Exton, PA
“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but, she didn’t make it. I promise we did the best we could. It was too late.”

And with that, I broke down. My best friend, dead. How can that be? Why was it her? I was in the car too! It isn’t fair. I only heard parts of his explanation.

“Her brain was swollen ... fluid leakage … she suffered ...brain trauma ... blood loss … she couldn’t be saved. I’m so sorry, her mother ... close you two are.”

He hugged me, but I didn’t feel it. I was numb. I finally find my voice: “D-do you know who hi- who was driving?”

“Not yet, the police arrived after we did, which was after the car left. I think they are checking the remains of your car, but I’m really not sure. You’ll have to talk to the station.”

Well, I didn’t need to try too hard to find the officers. They were in my hospital room when I woke up later. I couldn’t even begin to guess what time it was, or how much time had passed. All I knew is that there were two large men in my room, in uniforms. Keeping with the small town cliché it was the sergeant and deputy. They started with the basic questions, how old are you (17), if I had my license (yes), how old she was (same age, yes she had a license) and if we were ‘under an influence’ (no, of course not) .Up until this point I thought reliving moments as basic was this was hard.

“Had she ever had problems driving?”

“I usually drove, but she had never had an accident, or even a violation, but I guess you two knew that... Considering you’re … ” A sad pause fell over the room.

“Do you remember anything about the accident?” the officer questions compassionately.

But I couldn’t do it. I couldn't talk about it. I could barely think about it, I didn’t want to tell strangers. “Umm, I don’t think so.”

“Okay, if you remember anything, gimme a ring,” he says as he walks out of my room, the deputy trailing, tipping his hat to me as he closes the door quietly behind them.

How could they expect me to answer questions about her, especially now? My best friend died right next to me! I loved her like a sister. We had been inseparable since kindergarten. Our teacher, Mrs. H., sat us next to each, and we clicked. Even way back then, we were different. I think our differences made us like each other so much; everyone says opposites attract. I was always the quiet one, she was the sporty one. I loved art, while she’d rather talk about boys (that part came after our elementary days) . Together, we made a whole person. And I was incomplete without her. I wiped my face with a tissue. I hadn’t even noticed I was crying, I was too broken. As I laid back down in my hospital bed I wanted nothing but for her to be with me. She was the only one who could comfort me. I needed her the most the one time I couldn’t have her. Ironic, isn’t it? The only person who can comfort me is gone. My mother died when I was about two (I never did get the exact date) and my father was the town drunk. He spent most of the day drunk, and the other part sleeping. Luckily I had her family to help me. They were very welcoming, especially after they found out about my family issues; I slept on her floor more this year than I did my own house. They loved me like their own child, of which they had many. Her dad loved me more than my own did, or at least showed it better. Her mother was the mother in my life, as I never had one. Our relationship became more strained after that, but I don’t blame them. Would you want your dead daughter’s best friend in your house all day? And I never did have a good relationship with her siblings because they were all younger boys, the oldest being three years younger than us.

I was only 17. What would happen to me? I was released from the hospital two days later, because apparently my ‘weakened mental state was not grounds for living in the hospital full-time’ After a few days I went back to school. This was probably the hardest part. She was one of my only friends, and we had most of our classes together. My other friends were helpful, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the same . We were never as close as her and I.

The morning before I went back to school, as I was trying to decide what to wear, I found her sweater. She had loaned it to me, she said the color made my blue eyes pop and that I looked irresistible in it. That was one of her favorite words, irresistible, along with ridiculous and hysterical. I broke down again. All the memories I had of her came flooding back: sitting in the park, playing on the teeter-totter, laughing in the cafeteria, walking to gym class, interrogating her little brother about his new girl-friend, almost breaking a futon watching a movie, everything. My favorite times, we would never laugh about them again. She would never watch the video of me pretending to be a super-hero, or of the time we went to Ocean City. No one else could laugh the way we could about when we burnt that popcorn, or walked to a Wawa in the rain. I would never get to relive our spontaneous dance parties. I didn’t think I’d ever break through the ghost of her.

I couldn’t watch TV, because her favorite show was on. And I couldn’t listen to music on my iPod because it was once hers. We were in our own little book-club and had a blog. The only part of my life she had never really been a big part of was my art. Almost absentmindedly I started painting. Once I finally realize what I was painting: a vase of daisies. Of course, they were her favorite, I had made her a similar painting for her birthday one year. Was it thirteen? Fourteen? Either way, I started crying again. My tears ran down the still wet paint, smearing the lines. Daisies melting into leaves, melting into the vase. It looked beautiful. It may have been the best piece I ever created. I waited for it to dry, which happened to take four very long hours, and took it to her grave. I said a short prayer, laid it down, and started talking to her, reliving some of our favorite memories. A bunny hopped by as I was talking. Her favorite animal had always been the bunny. That day I went home and painted a bunny, sitting peacefully in her arms. I then knew what I had to do.

From that point on, I created paintings and plans for paintings almost non-stop for a month. After time, I had 22 paintings. Each day I finished one, I went to her grave and placed it there, and told her the meaning. The bunny and daisies were obvious, but the sunset and yellow circles felt as if they needed explanation. So I sat there, knelt some days, and talked to her, laughing, crying, talking as if she could hear me. I believe whole-heartily that she did. Luckily, someone told her family about my paintings, so now they hang in her old room. Some of the better ones hang in the living room, or even the dining room. A few were given back to me and I cherish them like nothing else.

I still miss her, and I will never forget her, no matter how much I try. As I lay the final painting down tonight, remembering the events of the last month or so, I realize, I am no longer angry because of her death. I am not angry at myself, karma, voodoo, luck or even God. I am now at peace. Yes, I am sad, but I can function again. I am watching TV again, reading, driving. I can say her name again : Alicia.

I even am helping to find the driver of the car. Forensics found red paint on the side of Alicia’s black car, and I think we have identified the driver. They haven’t told me who it is yet, but there is a court date. Instead of going to college in the fall, I am taking a year off, and helping my father. He is doing a great job getting over his alcoholism. Alicia’s death really set something off in him, and he realized what he did to me all throughout my life.

I forgive him.

I forgive myself.

But I will never be the same.





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