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There once was a time that I was alive. Not just breathing in the crisp fall breezes or watching the leaves change colors or hearing the sound of children laugh like jingle bells, but really alive. There once was a time…
Now I am dead.
Not just internally dead. Dead dead. Deader than a doornail, stiff as a board, another one bites the dust.
I’ve been dead for quite some time. I’m not exactly sure how long because time seems to work differently for me. In actuality time really doesn’t matter to me at all. There are days or sometimes nights I find myself wondering the time only to realize that there is no point to knowing.
People sometimes walk by on a dirt trail that winds through the trees. It’s getting colder I guess because they have begun to wear thick jackets and scarves; some of them hold hands, their cold fingers twined around one another’s keeping their palms warm. I can see these people and I can hear them, but they can’t do anything for me and that makes being dead a very lonely occupation.
I can’t seem to remember how I died, but what’s worse is I’m forgetting more about my life every day. Like the way my mother’s baking at Christmas time would smell or who my friends were and their names and even things about myself; what my favorite color is or how I like my coffee. They seem like silly things but they keep me connected to my life. Other people like me seem to be in a daze, walking around aimlessly their eyes are wide open but they aren’t really seeing anything – I believe they lost the ability to live long before their lives ended. So I’ve made it a game to tell myself three facts per day that I can remember from being alive because I don’t want to just become a Wanderer (at least that’s what I call them). I have to stay grounded. I have to figure out how I died.
There is a buzzing in the back of my head like an alarm clock with no snooze button reminding me constantly that I’m dead. Sometimes it feels like a headache but I don’t feel pain (or a lot of other things for that matter) so it’s mostly just annoying. I don’t try to let it get to me but the more time that passes the stronger the buzzing gets to the point that I almost want to cry. It’s days like that where I wish I could curl up by my mom with a cup of peppermint hot chocolate and just get lost in a conversation with her (fact #1).
Sadly I can’t do that.
There is just something about the way coffee taste after a good drag off a cigarette. I’m doing this now, almost compulsively, as arguments escalate in my backseat. I don’t really care what the argument is about since I’m not really listening, but I feel that this is happening more and more often. Not just people arguing in the back seat of my car, but being completely disengaged from everything. So I sit here. Smoking my cigarette (non-menthol) and drinking my coffee (gas station latte).
Tonight is different. There is a kind of emanating thickness in the air and it’s not just the cigarette smoke swirling through the car. It’s like the panicked, heart pounding nervousness you get when your curfew passed an hour ago and your parents will likely kill you for not answering the phone. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I have the urge to drive. Then the decibels in the car rise up another notch and I’m finally forced to pay attention to what is going on.
“What the hell, bro. You were my friend before we met this chick, so be my friend now and lay off.”
“I understand that you like her too, but she asked me out and I’m not going to say no.”
“Why would I? You really can’t expect me to say no, I mean come on!”
“This is true…”
“Exactly, so if you would kindly hop-off...”
“No way dude,” Colton interrupts, “There is no way I’m going down without a fight.”
“Fine… Then let’s fight,” Brantley puffs up. We all know he would beat Colton within an inch of his life so I intervene quickly.
“Let’s not! You guys must not remember what happened the last time you two wrestled in my car…” I was referring to the incident that caused my now ex-girlfriend to be rushed to the E.R. with a broken and bloody nose. They both lost steam quickly.
“We have got to do something! I refuse to sit here all night and watch drunks stumble into the street throwing up everything they own,” Brantley sighed.
“You mean like the time you did that,” Colton smiled.
“Alright, alright… I don’t want to be the referee tonight guys. You don’t pay me enough,” I turned back around looking out the windshield. I have run out of coffee and cigarettes, so the only place this night can go is down in my opinion.
“Let’s get out of here. Like now. Let’s go now.” Colton anxiously fidgets in the back seat.
“Where to?” I ask while turning my key in the ignition. I am just as anxious to actually do something with the night as Colton is and I can feel Brantley’s wiggling knee in the center of my back. I pull out of the parking lot my tires squealing against the pavement determined on going no where, but at that point anywhere was better than here.
A pair of bright lights flooded over me. I couldn’t believe this was it. I was finally crossing over. Tears flooded my eyes, and then a wave of realization washed over. I had never figured out how I died.
I put my hand up against my face in an attempt to see the source of the light. Suddenly it became apparent, but before I could jump out of the way, an abused, black car struck and knocked the wind out of me. It passed right through like a dear running through a spider web, but it stunned me none the less. I stumbled a few steps before I fell to my knees as the car continued to speed away unconcerned and unfazed.
I laid on the ground awhile waiting for something to happen. The stars twinkled above me, smiling and whispering sweetness, as thick as honey, into my ears. When nothing happened I slowly stood up and looked around. The car had stopped a couple miles down the road. The brake lights stared angrily at me and I thought for a second maybe it was coming back to finish the job (although it wouldn’t get very far considering I was already dead). As this thought crossed my mind, the car shifted and slowly began to reverse towards me, the menacing eyes moving closer and closer until it stopped, inches from my knees.
My breath caught in my throat. I was too shocked to move. Voices erupted from the car, but I couldn’t decipher the words. The driver’s side door flung open and I feared for a second that it might just bust off its hinges from the force. A boy with curly blond hair sticking out from underneath a hood that framed his face, which was fair in complexion, slid out of the car. He was wearing a black hoodie and dark wash jeans and his hands were stuck deep in his pockets. It was cold enough to see his breath, but he looked straight down so I could not see his eyes. He looked to his right away from me before turning his head and looking straight at me, right into my green eyes (fact #2) with his spectacular blue ones. His breath caught as well and neither of us said a word. A million and one questions raced through my head, but the most important were; can he see me? Could he hear me if I said hello?
“Hey,” he breathed faintly almost too quiet to hear.
“Hi,” I whispered softly. His eyes stayed steadily locked to mine. “You can see me?” He nodded. “ You can hear me?” He nodded again.
“Holy s***… I hit you with my car… but you went through it.” His hands were now out of his pockets and on his head. His face became panicked.
“Please don’t freak out. You didn’t hurt me. I’m fine, see?” I walked towards him until I was only a few feet away.
“How? I hit you dead on with my car! You stood there and I hit you and then you weren’t there anymore, but you’re here now…” He began to ramble aimlessly.
“Shhhh…” I tried to soothe him and, without thinking, I put my hand on his shoulder lightly. My palm glowed a shocking blue where it touched him. His jaw went slack as he stared at my hand. Admittedly, I couldn’t look away either.
“Who are you?”
“Daisy,” I removed my hand and the glowing slowly ebbed away with every heart beat I didn’t have.
“Dude, who are you talking to?” A voice interrupted from the passenger seat. Collin looked at me again.
“Nobody,” he replied. My heart ached, the first pain I had felt since I had died (fact #3). I turned and began to walk away slowly. The sound of swishing fabric followed me.
“Wait,” Collin whispered. He jogged ahead of me and stopped.
“I need to know why I can see you and my friends can’t.”
“I’m dead,” I replied simply with a shrug like that would explain everything. His expression fell and the color slowly drained from his face. “I can’t tell you anything else though because I don’t know myself.”
“I had a feeling you might say something like that,” he finally looked away with an expression of pain I’ve never seen in my life, or death.
After that night I returned alone on a nightly basis to those woods. Daisy would find me near a group of trees at the base of hill that ran along the road I had hit her on. Many of the trees had been broken and a few were badly scarred but I never noticed this until the night I came to tell her how she had died. I hadn’t known right away, but I found out from a news article I found on my aunt’s kitchen table a week after I met her. What really had caught my attention was the picture. It was Daisy’s senior picture; one of the most beautiful pictures I had ever seen. Her dark brown, wavy curls surrounded her face as she caressed her cheek with one elegant hand. A smile that could have melted the heart of any person and light up any room, caused sweet, innocent dimples at the corners of her mouth. The smile was in her emerald eyes as well. She looked so happy. So alive.
I almost couldn’t bear to read the article, but I did. Every sentence crushed me. She had been walking home from work along the same road I had met her. A drunk driver traveled the same road when he fell asleep, crossed the median and hit Daisy at a speed well over the limit (not that the speed would have made a difference). She was thrown from the road into a group of trees at the bottom of the hill and was met by the car for a second and deadly blow. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
I couldn’t tell her right away. The more that we talked and the more I helped her remember her life I realized everyday that I loved her. My heart would swell and flutter every night I saw her and hearing her voice made my skin tingle. It’s not rational to fall in love with someone that is gone, but I fell for her stronger than I could imagine.
The night I told her the truth I held her hand in mine watching her skin glow like the first night we had met. The same warm blue that turned my skin cold because I knew what would happen that night. Tears fell willingly from my eyes, but I couldn’t look her in the face. She asked me what was wrong in a soft whisper, and I could do nothing but shake my head and continue to cry. She then wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me tightly although her grasp was weak, and she kissed my check lightly.
When I finally found the strength I watched her fade slowly as the words escaped my mouth monotone and emotionless. Before she was gone I kissed her lips and whispered in her ear so that only she could hear me say, “I love you.”
And she was gone.