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The cold breeze wraps me like an icy blanket and the smell of Fisherman’s Wharf fills my nostrils. I sigh happily. San Francisco. One of my favorite places in California and I get to spend a week here?! I can’t believe it. We walk up the stairs of the hotel, my suitcase bouncing along the concrete stairs,and a blast of hot air greets me,as I open the door of the hotel. A tall lady with long, blonde,hair greets me with a smile and ushers me to the camp check-in. My mom signs me in and we say good-bye. She hugs me one last time and sadness hits me hard. I realize how much I will miss her. I wave good-bye and a camp counselor shows me to where all the other campers are. I’m kind of surprised when I enter the room. I can feel the tension and the unfamiliarity as I walk in. Everyone is sitting in different areas of the room, glancing around. They all look scared. I can tell no one knows each other. We start the day with some icebreakers and instantly, the wall that separated all of us is knocked down. We start to break into pairs and a girl comes up to me and asks if we want to be partners. I take a moment to look at the girl. She has long,wavy,brown hair and has a thin necklace with a dark blue pendant surrounding her neck. She’s wearing a sweater that reads “ I LOVE NY”, paired with a pair of black shorts and white sandals. A gleam of friendliness is displayed in her smile. I smile back and say OK. We sit in the middle of the room and wait. Our leader gives us instructions.
“ Ok, everyone! You have a partner in front of you. I want you guys to talk about things you like and see if you have anything in common with each other!”
We look at each other and there is a pause of silence. I decide to start the conversation.
“ Hi, I’m Salinka and I’m 12!”, I say.
“ Hi, my name is Alyssa and I’m 14.” she replies.
We start to talk and it turns out, we have a LOT in common. We both
like the same music, same clothing brands, same movies, EVERYTHING. By the end of the day, we are talking to each other like we’ve known one another for years. She tells me how she came here from New York and how everything here is extremely different from where she came from. It reminds me of a trip to New York I took with my family. We both share our points of view and memories of New York. I envision the bright lights and gleaming skyscrapers, everything coming to life right before my eyes. We talk and talk and talk until we have no more memories left. We are both laughing at the end. Is this what real friendship feels like? I think to myself.
It’s Friday. The end of the week. Alyssa and I exchange phone numbers and we both promise to call each other every day, even though we both know that that’s a promise that can’t be kept. I spot my mom in the parking lot and head over. As I’m going, I wave goodbye to Alyssa and she waves back.
“ How was the summer camp?”, my mom asks
“ I’ll never forget it”, I reply.
The car ride is silent for the rest of the time. I rest my head against the car window and gaze at the sights around me for miles and miles with a peaceful smile on my face.
A few months later, I get a call from New York. I answer it excitedly.
“Hi Alyssa!”, I say happily.
“ Is this Salinka?”, a deep, unfamiliar, voice says.
“Yes”, I reply shakily. That’s not Alyssa. Who is this person and how do they have her number? I’m confused.
“I”m Alyssa’s dad. She told me you were a good friend of hers. I need to tell you something.”, her dad says gravely.
I’m scared. Almost immediately, a hundred images flood into my mind. A fire? Did she get hit by a car? An explosion? An accident? Suicide? All these thoughts explode in my head one by one, each one worse than the other. I’m scared to reply.
“ What’s going on?”, I say nervously. I brace myself for whatever is coming my way.
There’s a brief moment of silence, a sigh, and then..
“ Alyssa’s dead.”
The moment I process those words, my heart shatters. I drop my phone on the ground, I feel like all the world’s burdens have been dropped on my shoulders.I feel like everything is going in slow motion. I start to feel weak. My knees buckle and I fall to the ground. I don’t say anything for a long time.
I hang up. I slump down and sit at the bottom of my door. I cry. I cry and cry and cry until I feel like I have nothing left in my body. My mom hears me crying and rushes up the stairs. She opens my door in a hurry.
“ What happened?” ,my mom asks.
“ Alyssa’s dead”, I say, still crying. Saying those words makes my heart break into even more pieces. My mom’s face falls and she doesn’t say anything other than “ I’m so sorry Salinka”. We both sit in silence for a long time. Then my mom’s face turns into a look of confusion.
“ How exactly did she die?” my mom asks curiously.
The question hits me like a ton of bricks. I never asked. I repeat the question in my head. How did she die? I re-dial the number and wait for Alyssa’s dad to pick up.
“ How did Alyssa die?”, I ask firmly.
Silence. I hear him take a long, deep breath.
“ I don’t think you really want to hear this, but I’ll tell you anyway.. Alyssa took an overdose of drugs. She had apparently been doing drugs for weeks. Alyssa’s mom and I found out during the autopsy.”, he says slowly.
I take a deep breath to stop myself from crying. Why would she do this? She seemed like the perfect child. And she was so young. How did she even get them? She didn’t deserve this. Questions flow through my mind rapidly and I can’t control them.
“ Thank you” ,I say shakily and I hang up.
It’s been around half a year since Alyssa’s death. I always remember her and I miss her more than anything in the world. She made me realize that life can go perfect for you and then suddenly, when you least expect it, life throws a curveball at you. One that could set you off your path for a while. And sometimes, it sets you off your path forever.