He wasn’t my problem to worry about. Not my issue to deal with, or cause to lose sleep over. He was an acquaintance, a figure with a face and a name. Not my figure, not my face, and most certainly not my name. And it was that summer, of the unknown face and name that I started to live. Looking back now, I think maybe I was so emotionally moved because of the fact that my precious, material life was put on hold for the utter awakening of the real world. Death was a ‘sorry’ and a hand shake, nothing personal, never even a whisper of sincerity. I was only fourteen, and what a ripe age to be at such a time. I didn’t have many friends, I was average in school, and the only thing that set me apart from the others was my ability to coherently respond with emotion. Through poetry. I could write about any topic in the world, with the utmost genuineness. I could blindly write in the shoes of an eighty year old woman, or move back a few years and write ever so clearly about what the future had in store. Writing was my absolute passion, aside from anything else. It made me smile, made me proud, made me want to be something, somebody! Writing for me provoked the ‘Nice Emily’, the jack of all trades, the icing on top of the cake. I was able to suppress my outer image of childish mendaciousness, and through my words create an alter ego who had brilliant outlooks on the world, and had emotion available for every tragedy and disaster, every joy and precious moment. Writing was my way of showing the world that I was capable of anything and everything that was forced into my life. Then, Mike was diagnosed with cancer. The blinking cursor sat alone for many nights, as I so badly tried to inspire Katie with my words. I was stumped, completely. Writer’s block? No. Stupidity? Not in this situation. A wall of incapability to stir up words with nothing behind them as I was trying to hold myself responsible for making Katie’s life easier to wake up to each morning. That’s how I diagnosed the situation. How could I, Emily Watterson, fourteen year old nobody, write enough words that my dear friend could actually resort back to a normal lifestyle? It’s impossible. There is no way on this earth, that anybody like me, anybody who walks in the same shoes, could ever make Mike better. He was dying, practically dead. He looked purple every time I saw him, older, and bonier. Visiting Mike always made me cry, which I thought would be a source of inspiration, as morbid as that seems. Wrong again. So how did I manage to write the words that I finally printed out with pride? How did they come to my brain with such ease? I’ll tell you. I searched for inspiration in my tears, when really the revelation came to me through his words. It was one day when my mom and I went to see Mike, I was feeling very low and sickened by the sight of his almost corpse. This had once been my friend, someone I had shared laughs with. He was a person, a human being. He served our country, he loved his wife, and he gave me a friendship I realize now that I only valued while he had cancer. When we had stayed for about an hour, and it was time for us to leave, Mike spoke to me for the first time in about a month. I leaned in close to him, and hugged his cold bones. And then he faintly whispered to me, “You look beautiful Em, you always do.” That was the last time I ever saw or spoke to Michael Rotenberry. I feel as if his death has brought me life, rejuvenated my sense of emotions, and gave me the assurance that my words will always mean something in the world. I am a better person today because of Mike. Now with God in heaven, he validates my words and provides endless inspiration. For the rest of my life, I will always remember, Mike died, and through him I was moved to be reborn.
My Side of Mike's Story
April 20, 2010