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For You, Cameron


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It was only last Saturday afternoon that I was strolling down Madison Avenue, window-shopping contentedly, the sun smiling down on my face, and my breeze-blown hair gently tickling the back of my neck. In my ears hummed the everyday sounds of the moderately-busy city, like the low rumbling of cars and the conversations of the people I passed. With H&M and Abercrombie shopping bags pleasantly weighting both arms, I probably would’ve been happily whistling if I knew how to. I remember the fateful moment that my iPhone in my right hand double-buzzed, indicating a text message. I mindlessly opened it up, expecting some trivial gossip or a new babysitting verdict from Mom. But the universe had a crueler trick in store for me – and so many others – than that. There on my screen, in raw, black-on-white text, lay the two words that jarred my entire world: “Cameron’s dead. Car crash.”
I felt my legs stop moving and my ears cloud over to the sounds around me. I stared blankly at the letters, unable to make sense out of the order in which they were placed, and beyond unwilling to try any harder. I didn’t check the sender of the text. I didn’t care. The “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” – it didn’t matter. Nothing did, except that something so good in the world was now no more. My phone tumbled uselessly into my bag as I released my grip on it, and purple and yellow spotted my vision as my head swam with a burst of shock. How could this have happened? I choked as the first acidic torrent of grief flooded into my insides and cut off any air flow into my lungs. My stomach lurched with a wave of nausea. And why, just why? I felt my heart sucking back in the blood that I had just felt pumping healthily through my veins. You’re gone and never coming back. Everything that had been breathing, functioning, living inside of me shriveled up like a wilted flower and disintegrated into ash. If my body had had enough life left to produce tears, they would’ve scorched my cheeks like acid rain.
I choked as a subsequent surge of longing and helplessness slammed into my chest, knocking the wind out of me. I reeled back on my heels, staggered over to the wall of a building and slumped down against it. I brought my knees to my chest, folded my arms and lay my head down in the folds of my forearms. The concrete dug in to every vertebra of my spine, but I would’ve taken the pain of that, or anything else, a million times over that of your death. I remembered the confident, beaming smile that shone on your face when you sauntered into the room. I remembered your sense of humor – when you dressed up with the gelled hair and chain necklace of a Jersey Shore character for Halloween – the spontaneity and adventure with which you lived life – the late night that you snuck into a high-end beach club to retrieve your favorite towel – your ease – how you told knock-knock jokes to your academic dean – and the passion and love that you had for windsurfing and exercising. I remembered how only you, with your jokes and happiness, could pull a smile out of me the night that I first felt heartbreak. A reservoir of fun, compassion and enjoyment ran deep in your soul, one that could never dry up. A true, unparalleled essence of vitality burned bright in you, like a lamp illuminating all the darkness.
And this unique light had been suddenly and inexplicably snatched away from us, snuffed out so unfairly by the cruel hand of fate. You were only eighteen. It wasn’t your time to die; it was your time to live, and thrive, and succeed. Red-hot anger flared up in me. The flame continued to seep through my body, its tendrils igniting every dead nerve cell, until my fists clenched and shook with tremors. I looked up as my vision practically flashed red with rage. None of this was true. The message had lied. You weren’t dead; you were Cameron. You had to be. That was who you were and would always be – a warm, flushed, vibrant human being – not a stone-cold, lifeless corpse. I found myself railing at the cruel God that had illustrated this scene. How dare he so carelessly and needlessly terminate the life of such a vivant human being? How dare he cause you to cease to exist? Surely, you of all people would not stand for it. No, you would not lay still and unmoving in the darkness of a closed casket. You would remain laughing and smiling, bringing energy and life to every place you went and all the people you interacted with – because the alternative was unthinkable.
The shadows of the buildings gradually grew longer as they stretched across the street, and the hairs on my arms began to stand up from the cold. I gradually realized that I needed to move. A little bit of normal color – not a lot – filled back in to the shapes that made up my vision. I stared blankly at the street around me. Cars continued driving, and people continued walking and talking – time continued passing, and life continued moving. I was vaguely aware that I had to continue moving with it. I managed to stand up. I mechanically moved my legs back and forth in a motion that I was pretty sure resembled walking. As I returned to a slightly more normal state of consciousness, every black and white emotion, and every shade of grey in between, slowly drained out of me. I was left with only a vacant emptiness where my heart should’ve been, and a deafening silence that threatened to break my eardrums. I kept walking.
When I reached home, I left my phone unchecked in my bag and my sleeping computer still on my desk. The memory of you gnawed relentlessly at my heart and didn’t need to be worsened by the torrent of texts, emails and Facebook messages that I knew awaited me. I spent that miserable evening curled up under the covers of my bed. Every time your name or an image of you showed up in my mind, my emotional floodgates swung wide open once more, and I was drowned in a river of sorrow and hopelessness that was nearly impossible to dam up again. In the end, all I really knew was that there was a hollow hole in the world where your life should’ve been. There still is, and always will be. Your departure punched a gaping cavity in my chest, a void that I knew I would never be able to fill. Your loss struck me with a blow of awareness, and anxiety, of all that is beyond the scope of human control. I bitterly resented, more than I can put into words, that the fragility of human life applied even to yours.
I awoke early in the morning. I stared up at my ceiling, watching the satin ribbons of my bed’s canopy dance with the breeze. I sat up on the edge of my bed, and then slid off of it, relishing the coolness of the hard wood floor against my feet. The first pure, blue light of the dawn illuminated the window in front of me. I rested my head against the cool oak windowpane and remained there for quite some time, thinking. In the end, I realize that no testament to you can encompass the magnitude of all that this tragedy has wrought. Nothing that I write can do justice to all that you were. My anguish cannot fill the emotional crater that has been cut into all the people whose lives you touched. But our ears ring with the echoes of your joyous laughter. Our memories of you replay every moment that we spent in your presence. Our souls burn with the agonizing questioning of a death whose reason we can never even begin to understand. And our hearts ache with the memory of a dear friend whom we will remember, love, and carry with us forever.



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