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
On That Night
Those who witnessed what happened on that night all give each other nods silent like falling snow. Crystalline teardrops dance down the soft blurred contours of their faces, and everything they once knew, comes undone once more. One year ago, on that night, they lost someone, something. Friendship, love, the future. These things they forcefully and unwillingly left behind. More silent nods, more tears. After that night, nothing was ever the same for them again. How they wish they could go back to that time, and that place, and fix the thing that fate left broken. Nods. Tears. All their fears. They remember now, what happened on that night, one year ago
Thirty seconds left on the clock. The score is tied at four to four. The crowd roars, the closeness of the game is shooting ecstasy through their veins. Lacrosse season has always been a big deal at our school, and this year was no exception. I hear my name being shouted—chanted—like I’m the God of the field.
“Jefferson, Jefferson!” Jeff-er-son. Each syllable resonates loudly in my ears. I strain my eyes searching through the stands for someone who I already know isn’t there going to be there, and I’m somehow still disappointed when I can’t find them.
The disappointment would have to wait till after the game though. I avert my gaze to Brian at my left, and then to Adams at my right. It was time to make magic happen, and fast. The ball is burning in my stick; I’m dying to get rid of it, preferably into the goal. Sticking with matter over mind, though, I pass it to Brian, and he passes it to Will. Within fifteen seconds, it’s back to me.
Damn it. I had to act fast. With only fifteen seconds left, we didn’t have much time to spare. I file through all of our plays in my head--there’s only one that can save us this game.
“Cyclone!” I scream. My helmet vibrates, and the Earth begins to shake as the Williamson High boys lacrosse team stomps through the play we’ve rehearsed so many times before. I pass it to Johnson at eleven, he swiftly throws it to Riley at three. We’re all running in a complicated, weaving pattern. Five seconds left. Max is at twelve with the ball.
“Now!” A roar erupts from me, and I dart from my spot at seven, dodge the defense, and hold my stick out for the ball.
The net lining of the stick cradles the rubber ball.
I aim my throw towards the bottom left post, and fire.
The clock buzzes madly, the game is over.
The score is five to four.
The crowd goes wild.
Snap. My very expensive pearl necklace breaks, and the pearls fall like little opaque tears before bounding in all different directions on the ground. That was my favorite necklace.
I slap Brandon. “What the hell was that, you moron?” The buffoon stumbles back like I hit him with a baseball bat or crow bar.
“Someone told me you like it rough.” Brandon rubs his cheek that is already turning red. His stutter makes me laugh on the inside. His comment blows hot steam out of my ears.
“Oh, is that so? Well you heard wrong. Screw off, you p****.” I snarl, fierce like a lioness. My personal agenda did not make room for premature boys who didn’t know what they were doing, and who trusts everything whatshisface and whatshername tells him without even asking me for a truly honest answer.
Eyes narrowing, Brandon spits at the ground and mutters “b****” before walking away. The pearls on the ground twinkle in the bright lights of the stadium. I hear his name being called out by the crowd as though it were a Bible tune being sung in church.
Why must this night suck so hard? Tears stream down my face in twin black rivers as I kneel down to pick up the remnants of my necklace. How would I explain that loss to my dad? Oh hey daddy, I was getting naughty with a boy by the sports shed during the big lacrosse game to get back at my ex, and as we were getting into it the stupid boy broke my necklace ‘cause he thought it’d be sexy. Yeah, that’d go over well.
“Jefferson, Jefferson, Jefferson!” God, could they all just shut up already? This exposure therapy idea of Holly’s was awful. However, my thought process of getting back at Jefferson by messing around with another guy was even worse. Looking up at the cloudy sky, I pull out my iPhone 4, and in a matter of seconds send Holly a paragraph long text.
The clock times out, and the crowd releases a deafening howl. I’m guessing we won the game. That is my cue to get the hell out of here before everyone with their fake bleeding hearts asks me how I’m handling the break up.
Mawkish; overly sentimental. Benjamin’s mom’s reaction to his 2300 May SAT score was hysterical to the point that it was almost mawkish. My ballpoint pen floats gracefully over one of the many pieces of lined paper that lay scattered across my desk. It’s a Friday night, and I am at home practicing vocabulary for the November SAT that I have been studying for since June, instead of hanging out at the lacrosse game like a normal human being. Granted, I am what one might call a “geek” or a “nerd.” That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t enjoy being around others; that is what one would call an introvert. Benjamin’s parents stayed so far away from other people that one was led to believe they were introverts.
Sighing, I steal a glance outside the window. The night is so fresh—I nearly licked my lips from its sweet, savory scent. I would give anything to get out of this jail cell and go be an actual teenager for once. I heard during AP Calculus earlier today that Alex Martin is having a party at his house tonight. I wonder….
No. My parents would kill me if I even tried to escape. Hell, they’d kill me if they knew I was even thinking about leaving the house instead of studying for what they considered “the only important thing in my life.” Besides, it’s a two story house, and I’d have to get by them in order to even pass through the front door. It was, in short, a lost cause. Melancholy; sad or depressed. Benjamin was melancholy because his life amounted to nothing.
My mom’s nasally voice echoes throughout our empty house. I can even hear it through my door. The air feels sticky from it, like she blew her nose into it. Alas, it is dinner time. Tonight’s menu probably consists of one of those unappetizing vegan meals my mom had been experimenting with lately. I look longingly out the window once more before descending down the stairs to hell.
Maybe, just maybe…
“Sweetie?” My mom gently raps her knuckle on my closed door. “Sweetie, are you awake?”
I’m lying flat on my back in my memory foam bed. My whole body is aching. My insides are aching. My attitude is even aching. Everything hurts; nothing is being spared from this monstrous pain. Breathing is more painful than I ever remember it being. It’s a difficult task to even open and close my eyes. But yes, I am awake. I am always awake.
“Yeah.” I give her a short, curt response. I already know where this conversation is heading, and I am trying to walk in the opposite direction to avoid the awkward that would settle in the house as a result of it.
“Baby, I was thinking…I know you have a lot on your mind, and things…aren’t exactly looking up for you, but maybe you should get out tonight. Maybe go to the game? You always loved going to the game with Arielle and all of your other friends.”
Silly mommy. Last year was so long ago. I’m not even the same person anymore, after all that’s happened. It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve felt good. I draw my hands to my face, and pick away at the faded pink that had been painted on my nails by Arielle weeks ago.
“Baby?” My mom keeps prodding me with her voice. It feels like a hot iron being jabbed into my side.
I roll my eyes. When will she learn? “I don’t want to go.”
I cut her off. “Yes, I’m sure. Could you please leave me alone, my head is in total agony right now.” It isn’t a request, it’s a demand. The floor creaks with the weight of my mom’s heartbroken steps as she walks away. Jesus, when did I become so mean? I wasn’t always this mean, even after I was diagnosed. When did that change?
Seconds pass, and then minutes. In no time at all, an hour flies by. And all I think about is nothing. There is nothing worth thinking about, really. I grab the paper crane necklace that lays by my bedside, a token of Arielle and the gang’s love.
I smile sadly. No thousand paper cranes could save me. If they could, then I’d be okay right now.
Buzz, buzz. The light from my phone illuminates my dim room. I squint to see who the text is from. Arielle. I grunt as I turn over and onto my side so I can grab my phone. 9:13 PM blares neon green through my pupils. It nearly blinds me. After struggling for what feels like decades to punch in my passcode, I can finally access the text.
So, I still love you and all, but your little exposure therapy plan was awful. I feel like crap right now. We won the game, big surprise. Errrrr, I have stuff to tell you. Want me to come over? Or, I heard that Alex Martin was having a party, we could go to that, if you wanted. Might be good for you to live a little bit. People are starting to think you’re actually dead—no harm intended or anything. Let me know asap. Love ya.
I smirk. Only Arielle can say something like that and manage to make me laugh. I begin to type back a response: Eekers, I’m sorry ? it was worth a shot. Come over here? But then I pause. I reread her text above mine. Alex Martin is having a party, and his were always the best in town. It might be worth going to. I delete what I had typed before, and rewrite something new. What about my lack of hair situation? I mean, I guess I’d be willing to go, if we can figure out a way around that.
Within a few seconds she responds. OMG. Don’t even worry about the hair thing. I’ve got you covered girl. Be there in like fifteen to get you ready.
Adrenaline pulses through me. I need to shower. I need to pick out clothes to wear. For a moment, I forget the pain that is destroying my body. Dear god, I’m actually going to be the normal teenager I once was forever and a day ago. A smile, however small, creeps onto my face; it feels foreign. My mom comes into my head. I need to ask her if it’s alright that I go out tonight.
I open my door and tiptoe down the stairs to find my mom sitting on the sofa watching reruns of Modern Family. Clearing my throat, I prompt my question. She turns to look at me—I can tell she’s been crying. “Hey, momma…would you be okay with me going to a party tonight with Arielle?”
People always say a picture is worth a thousand words, but no amount of words, no number of pictures can give justice to the look on my mom’s face. A look like that hasn’t been on her face since…I don’t know when.
God, it’s been so long since I’ve lived.
I’m being suffocated by people swarming around me, assailed by the compliments of those who admire me. For tonight, and every Friday night during lacrosse season, I am the man of the hour. Girls shoot me coy smiles and sly winks. Guys slap me on the back with approval. My coach shakes my hand, commends me for my leadership and for “taking charge.” My family—dad, mom, sister, brother and all—hug me and tell me how proud they are of me.
She’s not here though.
It shouldn’t bother me that much that she’s not here. I mean, I’m the one who ended it, after all. So why do I miss her now? It just feels like one big mistake breaking up with her, now. All these girls trying to get my attention—none of them can compare to Arielle. Why did I break up with her again? I can’t remember.
“Yo, Jefferson!” My best friend Leo walks up to me and we bump fists. “Sick a** game, dude, like usual.”
“Thanks, bro.” I give him a half-a** grin. All the flattery is making my head hurt. I want it to stop.
“So dude, Alex Martin is having a party tonight. Wanna go?” Leo blows into his scarred up hands and rubs them together. He always had the chills.
I pause for a moment. It had been a few months since I had last gone to a party, and A-Martin really knew how to throw a good one. Maybe it’d help me get my mind off of Arielle. It was a Friday night, anyways, I had nothing going on the next morning.
“For sure. Need to go home and shower first, I reek.” The mop of black hair on my head feels so heavy. I have come close to shaving it off before, but Arielle liked my hair longer, so I never did.
Leo nods. “Right on. I’ll see you there.” As soon as he starts to leave, though, he stops, like he’s run into a brick wall. Turning to me, he passes a hand through his blonde dreads and looks awkwardly towards the ground. “By the way dude, I don’t know if this is true, but someone told me they saw Arielle hooking up with that Brandon Lundardi guy by the sports shed.”
My heart drops to my stomach. There’s no way that’s true, Arielle wasn’t the type of person to do something like that. But maybe she is. All that glimmers isn’t necessarily gold. In fact, you’re more likely to encounter fool’s gold than anything else.
“Damn girl, you look hot!” I whistle at Holly as she twirls around in a tight black pencil skirt with a low cut red shirt tucked into it. It didn’t matter that all of her hair was gone. In my eyes, she was still my gorgeous best friend.
“Do you really think so?” She smiles shyly, seeming unsure of herself. This was a big step for her, going out of the house in spite of her fear of what people would think of her when she saw her. No one could blame her for being reclusive though; cancer has that effect on some people, and she was one of those.
“Hell yes, I do!” Giving her a wink, I hop up and pick through her closet. One of the great things about our friendship, apart from all the important, mushy gushy stuff: we were the exact same size in clothes.
Holly cocks her eyebrow at me as I pull out her bright purple body con dress. “I still can’t believe what you pulled with Brandon.”
I fake shove my finger down my throat. “Please don’t remind me, it’s a memory I’m trying to suppress. I feel so stupid for doing that.” I begin to pick through more clothes in her closet, looking for anything tight and provocative. Holly closes the door on me.
“Go with the purple dress, you’ve worn it before and it’s a perfect match for you. Totally goes with your luscious auburn locks. Now, responding to what you just said. You are totally stupid for doing that, but at the same time I’m kind of proud. That’s such a me thing to do.” Before Holly had shut everyone out, she was a total fox. Boys were wrapped around her little finger, and she had no qualms taking revenge on someone who dumped her—in any form or fashion. Perhaps it wasn’t one of her most admirable qualities, but she was and still is a good person, deep down. She just liked the attention, because her dad never gave her any before he packed up his bags and left without a trace, like a feather in the wind.
She narrows her eyes in concentration as she fixes a blonde wig in place on top of her head. It was my mom’s when she was going through chemo. It’s about the same shade her hair was before it all came off, so it suits her nicely.
“What can I say? You and I are like twins. Twins separated at birth.” Holly laughs at my joke. The two of us were polar opposites: she is blonde and I’m a brunette, she likes sports and I hate them, I love reading and she can’t stand it, she falls for red heads and I always, without fail, go for guys with dark hair.
Grabbing her purse, Holly opens her bedroom door as I finish applying lip gloss to my fat lips. I absolutely hate my lips, everyone else loves them. Apparently they’re ‘voluptuous.’ She clears her voice and talks with an exaggerated British accent. “Ready to go, madam?”
I snort at her. “Take me away, my liege!”
Arm in arm, we waltz out the house and hop into my bright yellow mustang. This night is on, and is ours for the taking.
I can’t believe I’m doing this right now. Finishing up the last knot on my bed sheet rope, I frantically look around my room for a place to tie it to that would be close enough to my window. It’s late enough now, around eleven o’ clock. My parents are already in bed, if not asleep. Tonight is my night to break out of this cage and fly free.
After careful speculation, I determine that the dresser by my window is the best anchor to keep me from falling. It takes me a few moments to tie my bed sheet to the dresser in a truly decent manner, but I get it. Thank goodness I did Boy Scouts for as long as I did.
Here goes nothing. I tug roughly on the rope to make sure it’s secure, and then toss it out the window. I watch as it unravels like a ball of yarn down below. I check my pockets to make sure I have everything I need: Keys, license, money, gum. I’m all set. It has been a long time since I have prayed to God, but tonight is all about breaking my former mold. Kneeling to the ground, I clasp my hands together and ask that tonight would be one to remember, and that it would go smoothly. I know it sounds dumb, but I think God hears me. Well, I hope he does, at least.
I grasp the rope tightly and ease myself out of my window. My heart is thumping so loudly in my chest that I’m afraid it’s going wake my parents up from their slumber. Foot by foot I trek down until I’m close enough to jump the rest of the way. I’m out.
Like an owl in the night I swiftly glide to my car and push it out of the driveway with my noodle-like arms. When it’s a safe distance away from my house, I quietly get in, jam the key into the ignition, and speed off like the FBI is chasing after me.
I’ve never felt so alive.
“Love, Selfish Love” by Patrick Stump shakes Arielle’s car like an earthquake as we make our way to the party of the evening. I’m in so much pain, but I’m trying to ignore it as best as I can. I want to make tonight count. I am going to make sure it does. I don’t know why, but when I was getting ready in my room with Arielle, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of mortality, and realized that it wasn’t doing any good to sit around at home waiting to die. Spending time with the people I love and enjoying the great gifts that have been given to me before I become a memory of a person is the most important thing I can possibly do right now. That, I am sure of.
“Do you think he’ll be there tonight?” I don’t have to mention his name for Arielle to know who I am talking about.
She sighs, and her ocean blue eyes become polluted with the waste of heartbreak. “I doubt it. He hasn’t gone to a party in a really long time.”
“Yeah, but neither have you.” I drum my fingers on the window. It is cold to the touch.
Arielle doesn’t respond. She just keeps her eyes on the road ahead of her like the good driver she is. I know she she’s not angry at me, but I can tell my statement bothers her. Jefferson is the itch she can’t scratch in the back of her mind.
“He won’t be there.” She declares simply, implying that I shouldn’t negate what she said. C’mon, Arielle. I know you know me better than that. I have to bite my tongue so I don’t say something that might hurt her feelings.
“Just don’t be so sure. If he is there, just ignore him. If he says anything to you, don’t give him the time of day.”
“Can we not talk about him? Okay, thanks.” She shuts down our conversation about the nightmare of a dream boy at Williamson High. Well, if we run into him, she can’t say I didn’t warn her.
I change the topic once our destination looms in the ever near horizon. Beer bottles litter the ground, the faint smell of weed plays with the air, and the beat of the music that booms from inside the house is makes the ground vibrate. Twenty bucks says the cops will bust this party up by midnight. “Looks like it’s going to be a full house. You should probably park soon.”
Cars of varying sizes and colors line the streets up and down. I am vaguely reminded of the hot wheels my little brother used to play with when he was younger. Teens from various grades of our school are filing into the house like bees to a hive. Yes, tonight was the night.
Arielle’s mustang joins the mass of hot wheels on the street, and we promptly get out. I feel like I’m made out of rubber and can hardly stand; my nerves are beginning to get the best of me.
“Hey, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” My best friend in the whole wide world grabs my hand and gives it a squeeze. I wince from the pressure, but don’t let her see. However, as we begin to make our way to the party and near the colossal house, I grimace.
It isn’t a grimace of physical pain though, for this is a pain I can’t feel. This face is made because right in front of us, Jefferson and his posse eyes us like we’re the plague.
Okay, so maybe Arielle and I should have stayed home and played Monopoly or something.
Well, crap. Why is she here? Why, on this night of all nights, out of all the parties she could have gone to, did she choose tonight, choose this party? Judging by the look on her face, she is thinking the exact same thing about me. I can feel my gang tense up; I had told them about the Brandon rumor and I’m starting to regret it now.
Keep your cool. Don’t even give her the time of day. Let her snog with Brandon Linkhart. But the moment I see her, I break. She looks better than ever. Her auburn hair is curly, her eyes are smoldering, she’s wearing that hot body con dress that I know she borrowed from Hol--
Just now I notice that Holly is actually with her. Holly hasn’t left her house in months. And Holly looks p***ed beyond p***ed when she locks eyes with me. This night is not looking up for me after all.
“Dude, just ignore her. You’re the one that broke up with her, remember?” Finn nudges me with his elbow in the direction of Alex’s house. “Let’s go.”
Instead of doing as he suggests, I keep on walking straight towards Arielle and Holly. I’m electrified by the lightning bolts of tension bouncing back and forth between us.
Time to turn around, Jefferson. Time to turn around before you get into an even more messed up situation.
Having not learned the art of keeping my mouth shut though, I’m shouting at Arielle before I can even begin to stop myself.
“Why the hell did you get with Brandon Lundardi at the game tonight!?”
This is just my luck. Honestly, the first time I go to a party in decades, and he’s here. And his little question enrages me to heights that no other human being has ever been before.
“Uh, why do you care? You’re the one who dumped me, remember?” I spit back at him. My words are poisonous, and I’m aiming to kill.
He seems startled by my rebuttal, and struggles to think up a decent comeback. I carry on before he can say anything. “Yeah! Why do you care, huh? Why? Why!”
Rain began to come down in sheets from the heavens above.
I’m a bird, I’m an owl, I’m an eagle, and I’m flying through the night in search of excitement. I’m speeding in my car—25, to 35, to 50—and before I know it I’m soaring down the road at sixty miles an hour. I scream, I shout, I holler. This is what I’ve been holding inside of me since I was a little boy reading out of dictionary to prepare for the spelling bee. I’m so free now, so free. I can do anything. I am in control, I am the master of this night, I am the God of—
Rain. Rain is coming down. I’ve never driven in rain before. I see Alex Martin’s house down the street. The speedometer reads eighty miles per hour. I’m going too fast.
Screech! My car hits a bump. I’m spinning the wheel trying to gain back control that I’ve already lost. I’m like Napolean, like Rome. I’ve gone from hero to zero in a split second.
I scream, I shout, I holler—this time, out of fear. People are in the street. I can’t stop, I can’t stop, I can’t stop--!
God, are you there?
“Christ, will you two knock it off already!?” I’m leaning against a car on the side of the road trying not to succumb to the cold of the rain that is that is threatening to make me collapse. The scene before me is not a pretty one. Arielle is crying and waving her hands spastically in the middle of the road, and Jefferson is standing on the sidewalk opposite her now, shaking his head back and forth.
Stupid, selfish love. It ruins the best of human beings.
Screech! Honk! The two raucous sounds pierce my ears. My head turns sharply to the left, and all the color drains from my face as I see the dorky kid—Benjamin, I think his name is?--in my math class speed down the street, being held hostage by his villainous car.
As Arielle yells at me, I scream in horror. The black Honda—where did it come from?—it’s going to hit Arielle—God!—it’s going to hit her!
“Arielle!” I let out a blood-curling shriek. She hears my panic, and her face goes blank as she sees the car coming right at her. I file through my head for a game plan that could save her, that could win her this game, but then I realize that the time on the clock has run out, and there is no way for her to achieve victory against this opponent.
Oh my god, the car--I’m going to be hit, I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m gone!
Smack. All at once, I learn how to fly.
I hit her I hit her I can’t believe it I just hit that Arielle girl with the pretty smile in my Econ class—
God, why didn’t you listen to me?
An angel. My best friend—she’s an angel. Only, this angel has brown hair and tan skin and is wearing a purple dress, not a white one, and she has no wings to save her from the clutches of death beneath her trying to rip the soul out of her body—
The girl I love comes crashing down to the earth in a heap, and her hot blood splatters onto my face, and I’m deafened by the loudness of the silence that permeates the air after a weeping willow tree halts her killer.
Why did I say goodbye to her? Why did I give her up? If I hadn’t have done that, she’d be here now in my arms and she’d be alive and breathing and--
Beautiful, beautiful, the world is so beautiful—it’s the only thing I can think before my vision blurs out and I’m washed away with the tide.
And suddenly, this sense of mortality threatens to choke the life out of me.
Friendship, love, a future. These are the things they left with her, in her casket, on the day of her funeral. They all nod at each other The tears continue to fall. She is the thing, however lost she may be, that they cannot leave behind. She’s a sad memory, a doll being put up in an attic, a relic of a past once innocent. Each one of them stares at her grave, and wish they could have her back; each for different reasons. They wish they could rewind back in time, like a movie, fix what happened that night one year ago. They pretend they have that movie in their hands right now, imagine that if they rewind it, all will be well once more.
They begin at the end of the movie, and go in reverse from there. The words “peace in rest” float back into the preacher’s mouth, and they rest once more on the tip of his tongue. Tears roll up the faces and back into the eyes of all that knew her. Backwards they all walk back down the aisle, and on their backs they can feel the sun hit them like a bullet to their backs. Her casket—it’s being cradled in reverse, and being pushed back into the hearse, back to the mortuary. Her body, the morbid old hearse carries back to the hospital, where her sentence of death is revoked. The nurses, fat and frantic, cart her to the elevator with haste, and send her back down, down to the ambulance with its bright flashing lights below. She rolls out of the hands of the paramedics at the scene of the accident and into the arms of the boy who shakes her and is sobbing so hard he can barely breathe. In the blink of an eye, he walks backwards onto the sidewalk, going from hysteria to simple shock. In one split second, her body levitates into the air, and by God, she looks like an angel reaching for the heavens in the sky above her. In one breath, she lands on the ground with firm feet, and stares at the boy with eyes full of desperation. For just one more moment, she’s alive. For just one more day, she’s a girl, with aspirations, with dreams, a smudge on the window of life that cannot be blotted out.
She was what they left behind. But she, unlike other things, could never be brought back.