Spike the Penguin

March 13, 2010
By bowloforanges SILVER, Burr Ridge, Illinois
bowloforanges SILVER, Burr Ridge, Illinois
5 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The years shall run like rabbits." -As I Walked Out One Evening, W. H. Auden

He died. Spike the Penguin died. I called him Spike the Penguin since the first day I met him because his hair looked like a deceased porcupine, and his shirt bore a penguin applique that was kind of weird, but I was okay with it at the time. But he was dead in this time. No more present tense was necessary to describe his life. It was my brother’s birthday that day and I could have called him and told him that I loved him and that he was the best even though he was getting so old on me. But I didn’t. That was the weekend I didn’t move for hours.

My body was in paralysis but my mind was in analysis. My brain was raging like a hurricane; the evidence was all over my wet face. I felt ashamed to let myself be happy or smile because he was dead and the world shouldn’t have seemed funny or beautiful. I felt ashamed that I was taking his death so hard when he was just Spike the Penguin to me, when he was a friend, a boyfriend, a brother, and a son to others. I felt a lot of things that I didn’t want to feel, and that I hadn’t felt so hard in my life. I wanted to rip my heart out in the least melodramatic sense because it wasn’t that I was depressed – I was just overwhelmed. You can get like that when your friends commit suicide.

A million and one questions tortured me. What could I have done to prevent his death? Why did other people let him die? Why didn’t they just talk to him; save him? How has human interaction and communication been reduced to this? And why? I couldn’t allow myself to believe that no one noticed him and did nothing. I just keep thinking about how every day we knock into people at school, we shuffle next to someone on the sidewalk, we look at someone from across a room, and we don't do anything. Within that space, in that distance, in that contact however small, there is a great perhaps. There is an entire other reality out there. For me. For him. For you. For anyone. Ultimately, it was his choice to die, so if anyone was to blame, it was him. But I couldn’t blame him. I blamed everyone else but him, including myself. Yes, I was mad at him for putting us all through this. Yes, I was mad that so many other people were alive and he wasn’t. But I never fully accepted that he chose to die. I pointed fingers at everyone and everything except the casket.

He is still everywhere. He's in the pamphlet from last year’s Latin awards ceremony that was still on my bathroom countertop, he's in Ben's* crooked smile that's even more crooked now, he's in the tears we all shed, and he's in the unspoken space between me and my old history teacher holding the door open for me at the funeral parlor. He is in that casket, the same casket that I could do nothing but stare at until I ran out of the room and cried in the parking lot.

I had to remember him, but I also had to remember that life goes on. Long term memory is limitless, but emotion is limiting. I couldn’t change the past, and I couldn’t regret a decision that wasn’t mine. But it’s like he shoved his hands in ashes and smeared the carbon all over our faces and clothes and lives so that he’ll never be forgotten. He didn’t think about any of us. He didn’t think about Jimmy, the funniest guy I know, who found Spike’s body. I'm mad and sad and confused and a little resentful. Does Spike know how many people came to his wake? Does he know how many people skipped school to go to his funeral? Did he ever expect I'd be one of those people?

Every day I think about him. Once upon a time, my birthmother told me she thought about me every day and I didn’t believe her because I didn’t think it was possible. Well, heck. It’s possible. My God, it’s possible.

All of us manage to walk through the halls of high school and deliberately make a new path so that we don’t collide with one another. There is no doubt about it – physically, we are all “close.” I declare, in the name of Spike the Penguin, in the name of Jimmy, in the name of all the people who were unity in the dimly lit funeral parlor to grieve, it is time for us to get “closer.”

The author's comments:
* all names were changed for privacy

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