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"Come on Haley, just trust me," Jon said before dunking his head under the water again.

"What if it's not deep enough... I'll hit my head and die, and you'll have to live with that the rest of your life," I replied from my spot on the rock, the blue water taunting me from below.

"Its way too deep for you to hit your head, silly. I jumped in and I'm just fine, so get your butt in the water."

I closed my eyes and jumped into the cold river.

It was July when we met, the summer before last. He was the first person I met that was completely full of life, and laughter. He was never upset, or angry, and he always had a smile on his face. He breezed through life without a care in the world, completely and utterly free. We were introduced through mutual friends, and became inseparable within the week. Our summer days were spent swimming, or shopping, or sitting listening to music and talking about who we wanted to be. It was his last summer in Vermont and he wanted to make the most of every day.

"Haley Ellen, what is it going to take to get you to break free of that shell?" He ran his hands through his straight, black hair.

"Oh, I don't know Jonathan Pierre what did you have in mind?" A laugh escaped my throat once I saw the grin on his face.

"Something crazy... Something insane... Something you'll never forget."

"Please, do share your master plan."

He didn't say a word as he started walking up the hill to the woods behind my house, motioning for me to follow, I did. I followed silently as he trekked up the old logging trail, determination in his coal, black eyes.

"Where are you taking me?" I asked as I dodged a tree branch.

"To the top, where else would I be taking you?"

"Why?"

"You'll see. Don't worry. I'm not going to like... murder you or anything."

"Well, obviously; otherwise, you would have done it already."

When we reached the top, he stood there for a moment just looking out at the world with awe.

"Have you ever realized how small you are? In comparison with the whole universe I mean. We're barely a blip on the radar when you think about it." He looked like he knew his place, like he just completely understood life in itself, and then continued, "Some people think that means they don't matter, but everyone does. Every single thing you do is history, even as you're doing it. Us, standing here, anyone could've stood here a hundred years ago."

He spoke with urgency, like there was some kind of point he was trying to get across. I smiled at him to show that I knew what he was saying. There was a breeze blowing through the full, green trees and the sun was beginning to set. The sky was turning a shade of orange behind the mountains in the distance.

"It's getting late; we should probably head back to my house. I don't want to get lost in the woods." I laughed, but he didn't budge.

"You don't get what I'm saying. Those people who may or may have not stood here, they didn't live forever, did they? They may have lived until eighty, or ninety or they may have died when they were just sixteen. You don't get that life has an expiration date, and if you aren't actually living then it'll come and you'll feel like you wasted it." He waited for his words to sink in.

"I know I won't live forever. I'm not stupid. I'm living how I want to live." It came out as almost a whisper.

"Yes, you're perfectly content in that little cocoon where no one gets close enough to hurt you. You're in there, alone and scared. You don't let anyone in because you're afraid of getting hurt."

"You act like you know me so well."

"I know you, because I used to be you. You fill everyone up with useless information, guard your heart and your mind, and keep everyone at an arm’s length... Sound familiar?"

For once I was stunned into silence. He was the only one who had ever called me out like that, so completely sure that he had the whole story.

That night we walked down in silence, sticks snapping with each footstep. We made it to my back yard just before the sun decided to disappear for the night. He was leaving in less than a week, but I refused to see him after that night. He thought he knew everything about me, that it would be so easy for me to be like him.

The week passed, and he gave me the space I needed until I saw that he was right, about everything. He emailed me from France and we began talking again. He was so happy there, or so it seemed to me. He called me one night and I saw a completely different side of him.
“Haley, I don’t know what to do. Everything is so wrong here. I’m losing myself.” He sounded so completely different from the bubbly Jon I knew.
“What are you talking about? I thought everything was great in France,” I was shocked that he ever felt anything other than happiness.
“I just… Remember everything I said to you that summer? About life and death, and actually living?”
“Of course I remember. What does that have to do with now?”
“I don’t think I can do it anymore. You, you’re strong enough even though you don’t realize it. I see it in you; you’ve always been that way. I’m completely different, a weakling.”
“First of all, you’re the strongest person I know. Second of all, you’re scaring the shit out of me right now. And third of all, you’re the one who taught me to never give up. If I can’t give up then neither can you.”
After I spoke with him, I had to do what I could to help him from a thousand miles away; I called his mom. She said she had noticed a change within him as well. His mom sent him into therapy, and he began anti-depressants. Time went by and he seemed completely better. He laughed, and joked, and became just like the Jon that I had met that summer.
A few months passed, until Early December when I received an email from him that was a little strange, even for him. "Haley... I don't know when you'll hear from me next. Promise me you've been living? Making the most of everything? Things are a little weird here and well, you'll probably be mad at me once you find out—if you find out. It's just something I have to do... I fully give you permission to hate me. In fact, you should hate me. It'll be way easier. So just hate me. I'm being a hypocrite by doing this, because of everything I told you life should be... I just need to know you won't be sad, okay? You just need to be mad at me... Goodbye. Jon."

I reread it about a hundred times, trying to figure out what he was saying. For once, I didn't have a clue. I replied a few days later, "Jon... WHAT are you talking about!?! How could I ever hate you? You're my best friend... Okay, whatever you're going through... Seriously just deal with it 'cause I'm not going through this again with you. I know you’re better, so you can just stop pretending. You like to sit in your own little world where you’re standing on a cliff two million feet in the air ready to jump, and nobody wants to save you. I’m not going to save you, you don’t need it. You’re strong enough without me, but of course you can’t see that. I'm not going to sit here on edge and worried about you if you're just sitting there having a laugh about how stupid I am for falling for it. Hit me back when you grow up and figure it out."

It was the last email I ever sent to him. Exactly a week later, on December 15th, at about two AM, my phone started ringing. It was Jon's cell so I ignored it, still mad at him. He left a message, I listened, but it wasn't Jon. It was his mother. I could barely understand her she was crying so hard, I called her back. Ring... Ring... Ring... Ring...

"Haley.... Haley.... Jon... He... Oh, God..." I'd never heard her like this before. "He's... He's Dead, Haley."

I almost fell out of bed.

"WHAT!?! How!? When!?! What happened!?" I could already feel the hot prickle of tears pouring down my cheeks.

"Last night... He... He killed himself." I could almost see her choking on her words in front of me.

"No... He's alive. He can't be dead. He just can't. There must be a mistake... He promised me he wouldn't. He promised he wouldn't leave."

"I... Have to... Go. His dad... just got here..." Click.

Jonathan Pierre pushed life into me even though I didn't want it in the first place. At first, I was livid at the fact that he wanted me to live, but he could quit life all together. After that wore off, I was left with the sadness that overwhelmed me like a tidal wave; completely submerging me in water, making it so I couldn't breathe. After that I did exactly what he told me to, I had to live for him, since he couldn't anymore.

Jon was intense, insane and free. He lived for himself, not for the pleasure of others. He did what he wanted, when, not even thinking about any type of consequence. He wasn’t just the type of person who would put on a fake smile and waste his life away. After he died, I made a promise to myself to live for him, always. I’ll never dwell on the sadness in life, or hold grudges, and I’ll take advantage of any opportunity thrown my way. I’m no longer an empty body; not just breathing, but living.

When I think about my best friend, I still get a pang of sadness, but it passes. While I miss him, I almost feel like I never would have started living if he hadn't shown me how fragile life is. Life is fragile, and short, but it's also completely useless if you don't take advantage of every opportunity thrown your way. That's what makes it beautiful.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Ms. S-P said...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm
When I first read this piece, I cried.  The suspense built throughout with the wonderful imagery.
 
Jazzymann said...
Oct. 27, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I love your writing (: and your story really touched me. It made me want to run up to everyone I love and give them a huge hug. thanks for sharing

<3 Jazzymann

 
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