October 12, 2007
By Umesh Patel, Atlanta, GA

It seemed like it was a dream; I remember praying to God hoping that it was. It’s sometimes hard facing reality when you are not ready to. I still think about sitting up on the roof where it all took place, crying and asking myself why it all had to happen. There’s nothing I can do now—he’s dead. I find it strange how I seek comfort in thinking about how it all happened. Normally, people wouldn’t find a friend’s death comforting, but to me, that is what it has become.

No matter what I say about my friend, I don’t think it’s possible to put his life and his impact into the spotlight without leaving something in the dark. I met him when I was three years old on a visit to my grandparents. He was the only other child around at the time, and from that moment on, we became friends. As we grew up, our friendship and personal problems grew as well. I never fully understood the complications of his life, which is something I regret as I think back. All he wanted to do that night was talk and vent some of the problems clouding his mind. Up on the roof, we sat talking until the rain started to trickle down our necks. The rain silenced our conversation, and enhanced the voices of the world below. I wish I understood the way the world works—the bliss and the heartache.

There are not many events I can clearly recall, but seeing my friend die plays in my mind as if it were happening again. We stayed where we were for a few more minutes, but it was getting late, and I was ready to go in where it would be warm and dry. I could hear in his voice that he was crying when he told me “Goodbye.” At fourteen, he willingly gave up on life.

I remember turning around and seeing him with a gun at his temple. As his eyes closed and my voice screamed, a flash of light came followed by a deafening silence. I stood there in the rain, quiet and cold. I watched as the blood from his body mixed with the puddles surrounding him, and then ran in fright to tell his parents. I went back to the roof after his body was taken away, careless of weather and the time. I had already put what happened into words, but it was at that moment I began to cry, finally listening to my own words.

I found myself there every night for the next two weeks. My life had changed and I had no idea why. I didn’t know why I was on the roof. Maybe I was there to join my friend’s spirit, or maybe to end my own life the way he had only days before. There was no answer.

Even though I had witnessed his death, the idea of seeing his body for the last time made me nauseous. Once I saw his body and moved on, it would be the last time I would ever see him. I thought about just sitting down and letting the image of his body remain a mystery, but something compelled me to suppress my fears and look at him. He was wearing his black suit, a white collar shirt, and his deep blue tie, looking as if nothing had happened. He gained what he wanted by killing himself. I hated him. He lay there motionless and happy, while I stood above him haunted by memory. His hair was combed nicely to one side, the wound in his head mended. He was happy for my suffering, for the guilt he caused me, for the emotional scarring he inflicted. I could picture him smiling at me without a care in the world. Laughing in my face, he had indeed played the role of God. I hated him. He killed himself to let me know what he felt like when he was alive. I was listening now. He should have told me what was going on in his mind instead of placing a bullet through it. I hated him.

My thoughts were distorted by my own misunderstandings of what had happened. I never hated him; I loved him. He listened to me, he understood me, he cared about me—he was a brother. If only I listened to him I would have understood him, but I lost my chance to understand. I lost a brother, a friend. I lost the chance to talk to him again, to ride bikes, to swim. I lost it all. I can’t forgive myself for not being there when he needed me most. Even though I have learned to listen, when I’m in need, will someone listen to me?

My thoughts were never right for a period of time after his death. I dreamed about all my friends putting bullets through their heads. Insomnia took over my nights. I couldn’t even sleep without reliving those moments on the roof. From what little sleep I got, I would awake in cold sweat with no outlet for the pain. It was as if I were being punished for something that wasn’t my fault.

No doubt I missed him, and I still do. I decided to revive his soul and let it live the way it was meant to. It’s impossible to bring the dead back to life, but somehow I know he’ll always be with me. No matter how horrifying his death was, the image I have of him will never leave me. The more I tell his story, the more alive he becomes. I understand that I was not able to save his life that night on the roof, but by telling you this story, I preserve his life and our story, immortalizing him, never letting him be forgotten. He was Calvin, fourteen years old, a great son, brother, and above all, friend.

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