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An image conjures in my mind. Five friends, smiles on their young faces, cracking jokes mostly on each other‘s expense. Loud music is blaring through the car. They cruise down the highway, thoughts of the upcoming weekend’s events racing through their young minds.
None of them realize it, but an ominous patch of black ice lays a mere 20 feet in front of them. Ten seconds later, and they hit it. Control is lost, the car skids, it spins, now perpendicular to the side of the road.
A pair of headlights shine brightly into the car, and before any word is muttered, the front of the other vehicle crashes into the passenger side. Bodies collide.
The two brothers leave instantly, they’re spared the pain. The other three boys sit. Trapped. Hunched over in agonizing pain. They peer in the front, a quick finger to the neck shows no pulse. Their unbiological brothers are gone. Their young lives are now changed forever. And so is mine.
I snap back to reality and peer down at the single white candle I hold. Wax drips down its; sides, into the plastic encasing, crying along with me.
Flash. I’m back in Justin’s dark green truck. He’s staring out at the road, singing along to a foreign techno song, a small smile playing on his rosy lips. An open highway is laid out in front of us, plenty of time to talk. I start rambling on about God-Knows-What, and he looks over at me, a sympathetic look spread across his face.
Another bright, platinum flash and I’m back out under the night sky, candles surround me, glowing warmly on the faces of friends and family. I look up. I can almost see Justin’s smile in the stars, and it brings a grin to my lips. His smile. What I wouldn’t give to see it just once more.
Someone embraces me. In my mind, it’s Justin.
“Let‘s go home.” Someone says to me, and I agree willingly.
In my dreams that night, Justin and I are sitting in a basement, his arm is draped loosely around a navy blue couch. On the TV, Josie and the Pussycats is playing, and I can’t help but think how stupid the movie is. But he loves it. So we watch it. He tickles my sides, causing an embarrassing snort to emit from my mouth. I hit him in the arm. Half playful, half menacing. He smiles and laughs at me because we both know it didn’t hurt.
A pastor, clad in a white robe is standing behind an altar. He’s speaking the last farewell.
Physically, I’m present in the room, but my mind is far away.
Justin and I lie, sprawled across a red blanket. We’re gazing up at the onyx, star-adorned sky. We don’t touch, we don’t speak. We’re both lost deep in thought.
He breaks the comfortable silence. He asks me my favorite color. Green. My favorite color is green. Just like the dark, lush grass that surrounds us.
My side is gently nudged, and I’m instantly snapped back to the school gym. Two polished, oak caskets are ushered on wheels, out the double doors. Side by side.
The bus ride to the cemetery is long. I stare out the window, watching dead fields roll on by.
I close my eyes. I’m listening to Justin. He’s telling me about his mom. About the last time he saw her. He was in fourth grade. His mom drove him to the bus stop. They had just gotten into a fight.
The pain in his voice is palpable.
Usually before getting on the bus, he’d give his mom a big kiss, and tell her that he loves her. That day, he didn’t give her a kiss. Instead of receiving an I love you from her oldest son, she heard a determined I hate you.
My heart wretches silently inside of my chest.
I open my eyes, and try to remember the last words I said to him. Unfortunately, I cannot recall. We’d grown apart in the last few months, and I brutally criticize myself for allowing it to happen.
The bus comes to a halt, and I swallow the lump in my throat.
A flash, and I’m not in broad daylight anymore.
A hand pulls me into and across the cemetery’s grass. We come to a blue tent. A lump appears in my throat. I will it away. My nose tingles. I fight it. Water clouds over my vision. I blink it down and quickly wipe it away.
Two caskets shine under the sun, far too beautiful to be used for something so grotesque, I think, walking slowly away.
I’m lying in my bed, darkness surrounds me. Fresh tears are dripping down my face, and I vaguely hear a nearly inaudible ‘goodbye’ as I’m drifting off into sleep. My tears gradually come to a stop. I’m exhausted.
My last conscious thought is that while I feel the deepest sympathy for those who have loved and lost, I pity those who were denied the chance.