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Goodbye is for Dead People

The smell of the hospital, clean and fresh. Patients, family members, nurses, and doctors either moving around or sitting on the couches in the waiting room. A girl with glazed-over eyes staring into space, unfinished sentences trying to form in her mind.
'How-?'
'What-?'
'Why-?'
Oh, yeah. That girl was me. What had begun as any other day had been turned into a nightmare. I was sitting at home, thinking life was fine, when I got a call from Tami, my best friend's mom. She told me that Garan had been in a car wreck, and they were waiting for news at the hospital. Of course, I got there as soon as possible. What else could I do? He was my best friend, and I had to be there.
Tami had been allowed inside while I still had to sit in the waiting room. I couldn't think. My mind felt numb. When the doctor had come out to let Tami in, she had looked worried. But she wouldn't let anyone in if something wasn't okay, right? I clung desperately to that thought as if my life depended on it.
Finally, after what seemed like years of waiting, I was let into the room. My mind was numb, but it jumped into hyperdrive as soon as I saw him. His left arm and leg were in casts, and I knew he'd been hit on the driver's side. His face and hands were all cut up from broken glass. His eyes were closed. Tami was in the chair next to his bed with her back to me. I took in all of this in less than a second, and I couldn't hold on to a strangled sob that escaped my throat. Tami jumped and turned to look at me. A look came over her face that I can't describe, and she stood up and held out her arms to me. I practically fell into her, and tears that I hadn't noticed before streamed down my face. One of her hands rubbed my back while the other smoothed my hair. I realized she was crying too. It took a while but we eventually both quieted. I pulled another chair from the corner of the white-walled room and sat down, Tami sitting in the chair next to me. Neither of us said a word. We didn't need to.
It felt like we were both holding our breath, suspended in the air. One breath might knock us down and slam us to the ground. So we waited, without a word, hardly breathing. He stirred, I gasped, and I started to fall. His eyes flickered open. His gaze locked onto mine, and my free-fall was stopped. I smiled weakly. He then spoke in a hoarse voice. "Hi."
I almost laughed. Of all the things for him to say, he chose hi? Of course, I shouldn't have expected anything else from him. He turned his eyes to his mom and greeted her too. I could tell she was thinking the same thing I was.
We sat and talked for a while, not speaking of the accident or his condition. There were no tears. After some time, the doctor came in to say they had some more evaluations to make and that we had to leave. Tami left, but I asked if I could have a few more minutes. Thankfully, the doctor agreed.
I heard Garan say my name, and I turned back to him. I was shocked to find tears in his eyes. I sat down and instinctively took his hand in mine. His voice came out quietly. "I'm scared. I could hear them talking." He couldn't keep going, and I didn't press. He took in a shaky breath and spoke again. "Please, when you leave, don't say goodbye. It sounds too final right now. Promise you'll see me later."
I nodded my head, hot tears running down my cheeks again. He looked terrified, and I had never seen him like this. He squeezed my hand and his eyes begged me for this, as if this one promise would guarantee that he would live. "I promise." Some tension seemed to leave him then, and he breathed easier. I hated leaving him like this, but I knew I had to. "I have to go. I'll see you later," I said up as I stood up to leave. I saw him nod once, and I walked out.
A month later, I was sitting on the swing attached to the tree in our front yard. I remembered so many summer days spent here as kids, pretending we could touch the sky. I kept looking down the street, waiting for him to come running down the street again, that goofy grin on his face, skateboard in hand. He had to, no matter what anyone else said to me. We made a promise. After all, we never said goodbye, and he would never leave me without saying goodbye.





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