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News is Spread: A Smile of Remembrance Arrives
The spreading of news will continuously vary. When it is a birth, phones will constantly ring, to spread the news of good cheer. With birthdays, the ringing continues for about 26 straight hours. Graduation and the phone rings with congratulations. When it is a baptism, there is deep prayer over the crackling telephone reception. Good news, and the phone rings quickly. But when there is bad news, the phone rings slowly. Divorce, and phone calls are avoided as much as possible. Loss of job, the phone rings at the last minute. When there is death, phone calls are most dawdling. For those who enjoy drama, the news is spread hastily. For those who despise drama, the news is spread unhurriedly. For those that were affected, the news is spread gently. One day goes by, and the best friends and family are aware. Two days later, people at school become aware. Three days later, people on vacation. Four days, those who have moved. Five days and longer, and it is vague teachers, former friends and their families who are told of the death.
The death is on a Tuesday, the Fourth of July. “Suicide.” Heroin overdose.” There seems to be no one with the answers that so many hearts deeply ache for. News is slowly trickled to others.
An hour away, four days after the death, a phone vibrates. The morning is early and beautiful, a teenage girl barely waking. A cell phone is opened and sleepy eyes read the screen. The words are frightening to the girl, a sensitive fifteen year-old who loves deeply. “Question, who was Alexus?” A sleepy mind races to connect to a fragile heart that has already begun to pound. With questions like these, the worst can be imagined. Has she gone to jail? Was she in an accident? Has someone in her family died? The worst question to be imagined is death itself, and though the girl already knows that this is the question she should be asking, her heart beats more and more rapidly. The message is emotionally re-read until the word was is noticed. A fragile heart slowly begins to shatter.
Then the worst was real life. The two girls had gone to middle school together. They had even been considered to be middle school’s version of best friends: friends that were at points close enough to one another but only shared a relationship inside of the brick building that they came to to be educated. Alexus, the now deceased, would always tell the girl intriguingly uncommon stories about her life. This was a life that unfortunately contained late nights, alcohol, sex, and drugs even at such an unstable age. Since the time that the two had known each other, three questioning years had passed. Three years of sporadically broken conversations that were never continued. A teenager tries to cry, but finds that nothing can come out of the pain, pain that must be withheld inside of her as an unsettling sorrow momentarily overcomes her. She puts down the phone, and a sudden eeriness surrounds her, as if the warm air the room as suddenly disappeared.
Her mother is quietly told of the young lady who has been lost and visible grief overtakes and drains her regularly jovial face. The mother painfully remembers Alexus, the girl who has tragically passed. She agonizingly remembers the countless stories that she was told about Alexus by her daughter. Remembers that Alexus didn’t stay with her mother because of a nasty battle of custodial rights. That Alexus not only hated but despised her mother and the way that she had affected and broken apart her family. That she spent her time living with her two grandparents and at times her mother’s sister, and that though she loved them, they restricted and held her back from who she wanted and needed to be to live her life for the most part. The mother remembers that Alexus never had someone to play the role of her father. Constantly, there were problems at school and there were few adult roles that actually gave Alexus the time and respect that she deserved and those who tried were pushed away, no matter their efforts. That there were constantly problems at school. That even with these, there were still far worse problems for her at home. She remembers that Alexus openly never felt comfortable in her own skin. That she had trouble earning respect because of the impression that Alexus didn’t feel as if she herself deserved it. That she used her body in endeavors to earn respect from those around her, to fill her void of empty love. She remembers the stories heard about problems Alexus had dealt with, the misfortune she had gotten into throughout her thirteen years of living life. She remembers that Alexus had a little baby sister, hardly grown, who meant the world to her and was now out to fend for herself, without her older sister’s love and protection. The mother remembers how challenging and unhappy life was for Alexus. She deeply desires to be there for her daughter through the pain; but the newly built unspoken wall surrounding her daughter says to leave her alone.
At first the daughter expresses herself by being angry. After some thought, she is not. For a second time, she puts the pain inside of herself and ignores it, as if it is nonexistent. She emotionally struggles to remember the last time that she allowed herself to reach out to Alexus, though it was merely three years ago. Even though reaching out was on her mind for the duration of the roller coaster of eighth grade, all of her attempts were harshly shut down and were not acknowledged, as if Alexus was unable to be vulnerable. The questions she asked to just try to understand were responded to with lies or vague answers. Though she wanted to give more thought to the events that have just happened, the does not want the difficult thoughts to consume her mind. This consumption would make her vulnerable, and vulnerable is not who she is. As a teenager, she has to be strong and cannot allow herself to become weak. Vulnerability is not a part of being strong.
The funeral that is going to be held is that night. Thoughout her busy day, the girl’s brain is consumed with the thought of death, overshadowing everything, no matter how hard she tries to push it away. What if she had not given up on reaching out to Alexus and she had finally accepted her love? How much would she have been able to change that one important life? Could she have done something to save her? Allowed Alexus to be truly exultant? Questions endlessly flow in and out of a racing brain. What are people’s current thoughts about Alexus? What are the thoughts of her family? What about the people at school? What is her mom thinking? Does her mom know? Her sister? Does her sister understand? Her friends? How will they handle this?
Later, the teenager spreads the word to another girl, one who had been with Alexus and the teenager in middle school. The girl is also dismayed, but promises to keep her friends and family in her prayers.
The rumors about how and why she died still fly, and though no one wants to believe it, it is confirmed that Alexus died because of heroin overdose. Some still assume it was suicide and that she could not handle the world around her anymore.
Hundreds of pictures on Facebook are tagged of Alexus throughout her high school years. It almost seems as if her closest friends are the ones who are suffering the most. Pictures are shown of loving and comfortable embraces, most with captions reading RIP, or portraying that she is greatly missed. The teenager wishes that Alexus could somehow see, could somehow know how massively and incredibly loved she was by those around her, even those that she would not expect to love her so greatly, those that would not even have expected it themselves. The Facebook page for Alexus shows a list of people that she hates, a list of the people who have done something to harm Alexus or the people that she loves most. But then comes a list of the 44 people that had done something to better her life, the people that made her truly happy.
The teenager reminisces on her time with Alexus, regretting so many things. But, she mostly regrets that she never got to squeeze her dear friend one more time. She remembers how beautiful Alexus was when she was smiling, how her laugh was contagious and filled the room. She remembers the countless amounts of times that Alexus had made her laugh deep into her gut, and the giggles that they would always get into trouble for. She remembers that whenever Alexus set a goal for herself, that she truly gave her everything and put all that she could into her goal. She remembers how the love that Alexus gave off was enlightening and complete, once she trusted you, nothing was held back. She remembers all of these things, and the memories come flooding towards her. The teenager remembers Alexus and smiles.
Months later, a teenage girl allows herself to cry. Though the vulnerability is difficult, a genuine smile lights up her face, as she writes to remember Alexus.
RIP. Alexus. December 18, 1994- July 4, 2011.