The can opener whirls the can around. Over the sound, I can hear my parents talking in the background. Click. The can finishes rotating and I lift it off the magnetic circle. In the background, I hear the phone ringing and my parents’ talking ceases as they answer it. Taking the top off the can, I pour the soup into a bowl and get ready to put it in the microwave. I hear my mom say, “What? Ginny? Calm down.” I place the bowl down and turn my attention to the phone conversation. I see tears start to well up in my mom’s eyes and my heart starts to pump. My mind plays the guessing game of what could have happened. My mom finishes the conversation with “I’ll be right there,” and hangs up. My dad and I are now staring intently as she covers her face with her hands. My dad puts a comforting arm around her. I am now standing on the outside, with my bowl of forgotten soup. “It’s Jaime. She’s dead. She was in a car accident. She and her friends were driving drunk, lost control of the car and all of them died.” She starts to cry as my dad holds her. My mind was rammed with thoughts. My cousin? No, it can’t be. She’s only 18, the same age as my brother. How could she be dead? Tears well up in my eyes and I run up the stairs. Background noises again. I hear my mom tell my dad to check on me. I hear my dad say he will bring her to my grandma’s. Finally, I hear the heavy thud of winter boots as my dad climbs the stairs. I want to be left alone to think about what happened and to grieve. My dad knocks on the door and I wipe my eyes and tell him to come in. “Are you okay?” he asks. I nod, unable to say anything. He gives me a hug and kisses my forehead. “I am going to bring Mom to Grandma’s. Want to come?” I shake my head, glad for the time to be alone. One more kiss and he leaves my room. I hear softer, more quiet steps come up the stairs and stop at my door. My mom knocks and enters. Her eyes are red and her face is tear-stained. “Hi, honey. Here is your soup.” She hands me a steaming bowl of soup. Why did she think of making that for me now? I don’t want it, but I take it anyway and thank her. “I’m flying to Illinois for the funeral tomorrow. Everyone is meeting there. Only a certain number of tickets can be bought so late, so you’ll stay here with Dad for New Year’s. I’ll be back soon.” I nod and she continues. “Grandma is in pretty bad shape, so I’m going there to be with her. I’ll be back later.” I nod again and she leaves. Finally I am alone with my thoughts. I feel hot tears burn in my eyes and course down my face. I wasn’t close to Jaime. There was a point when I thought that only if you were really close to someone would you mourn their death. This is not true. I only saw her once a year. She was older than me. Though at that second, all I could think about was how young she was - too young to die. A life still to lead. All I could think of was that whenever she had been here, she had always tried to include me, even though I was younger. Now, I would never see her again. It’s hard to imagine never being able to see someone again. I also kept thinking what a waste of a life it was. That New Year’s was a mournful one. Sometimes, when someone dies, you tend to forget things about the person: his voice, how she acted, or things that he or she might have said. But Jaime taught me one important. I will never drink and drive or get into a car with somebody who has. Even though it was a hard lesson to learn, it is one I will never forget. S
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.