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What really matters?
Pain in Loss
'You're out Joe!' Daniel exclaimed.
'Aw, Come on! That was a cheap shot!' Joseph was a sore loser. The only thing Joe hated more was to be left out. He was a perfectionist, and was always a straight A student. Well, almost always, until two years ago.
If there were one thing I could redo in my life, it would be those times when I left Joe alone. And all the times when I made fun of him. As matter of fact, those times we told him he was a cry baby and to just be quiet didn't help.
As I previously explained, Joe was always trying to be the center of attention. One day, he decided to make everyone sorry. He tried to act like he didn't want us around. He joined a gang. We tried to figure out what he was doing.
'Hey Joe, are you alright? You haven't been talking a lot recently. With your gargantuan mouth that's hard to believe. You've really been sulking a lot.'
'Stay away from me. It's none of your business'
At the time, we assumed it was harmless. Besides a few pessimistic thoughts, we really just let it go. Apparently, so did he. More and more we lost that deep relationship between cousins. The more we left him alone, the more he let his brain slip. He no longer cared about his grades. He didn't try out for any more athletic teams. He just kept 'hangin'' with his 'friends' He wouldn't let me near him anymore. It was like Joe went skydiving without a parachute
For a while my brother and I stopped seeing Joe frequently, and eventually faded to once a month meets. From March to July, I never heard a peep from him.
Soon it was time for Aunt Sue's birthday, July 9th. I was nervous to see Joe. Daniel was tight lipped all week. I wonder what Joe was up to these days. Had he taken a turn for the worse? Any more of those and he'd just be driving in circles.
Aunt Sue was rosy cheeked and bursting with happiness to see us walk in.
'Where's the cake?' said Dad with a wink. Uncle John was stuffing his face already, so I decided to join him.
'Where's Joe?' I asked lightly.
'Up in his room, he told us he had homework.' He replied between mouthfuls.
That hit me as strange. Joe had never missed a party, and certainly not to study! I decided to investigate.
I started up the stairs, slowly at first, thinking of how he used to be such a nice kid. Now, he wasn't even attending his mother's birthday! I felt butterflies as I reached the top of the stairs and stopped at the door.
'Joe? Joe, you in there?'
'Hey man, open up!'
I heard soft wheezing, and a splashing noise like water hitting the ground. My heart dropped. This couldn't be good. I tried the door, and stood back in frustration; it was locked. There was loud coughing now, and I started to think fast. With a sense of fear I jammed a pen into the lock, breaking it but opening the door. I burst the door open, flying in a fury. Then everything stopped. I looked around me.
There was junk all over the floor. I saw a broken paper bag and white powder everywhere. I turned in a flash and there was Joe, lying face down in a puddle of clear puke.
'Help!' I screamed, falling to my knees and sliding to Joe. He was gagging on something. I slammed my forearm into his sternum, forcing out air. CRICK! I heard as the ribs around it fractured. He was coughing harder. Uncle John was the first up, my dad next.
'Call an ambulance!' Aunt Sue screamed to Mom, who was still in the kitchen.
It's been a year since Joe's incident, and I'll never forget it. I will never forget how a simple lust for attention made a sweet kid into a 'cool guy'. Yeah. It's real cool to go hang out with bad people, do drugs, go to the ER and lose everything. Joe may not have known what he was doing, but for the rest of our lives my family will carry the burden that there might have been something we could have done, but didn't.