It was summer when I heard the news. Second week in, I think. A Thursday. There shouldn’t have been anything special about that day. I shouldn’t have gotten the text. But I did.
When I found out a classmate of mine had been killed in a hit-and-run accident, my first emotion was doubt. No, it couldn’t have been her. There’s been a mistake. To be fair, I had heard the news from a not-so-reliable source in terms of what I thought was just gossip. So it (sort of) made sense to rationalize the whole thing as just a misunderstanding. Somewhere along the line, I thought, there had just been a miscommunication. I guess denial really is the first stage of grief.
For the next week or so, I was bombarded with R.I.P.s and apologies. I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have anything more than a Snapchat in terms of social media. I didn’t want to see everyone’s crying emojis and old pictures of someone I could never see again. I didn’t want to see her face. I didn’t want to think about it. I knew it was their way of coping, of expressing grief in their own way. But I turned away and forced it out of my head. Thinking about it over and over again won’t help you or her, I angrily chided myself. There’s nothing you can do.
The actual grief hit me several months later. I had started high school, emotions were running high. I missed my old friends. I missed my old school. I was overwhelmed as it was. I was sitting in English, staring at the clock (as one is wont to do in the last period of the day), when it hit me. I thought about her, really thought about her, for the first time since I shoved my feelings to the back of my mind. I thought about her smile, the way she never failed to light up a room. I thought about how easily embarrassed she got, how she would blush and laugh and shrug it off. I thought about when she whispered to us about her first kiss. I remembered laughing at how she sighed dreamily as she recalled the sunset and the ferris wheel where she had made out with some boy at the fair. I wondered if he knew she was dead.
The most difficult part of losing her wasn’t really that she was gone. It wasn’t that I would never see her grin or laugh or cry again, though the thought still makes my heart sink. It was of all the memories she hadn’t made. All the songs she hadn’t sang, all the inside jokes she’d hadn’t laughed at, all the kisses she’d never had. I felt guilty because I hadn’t known her as well as I should have. I hadn’t cherished her like I should have. And now it was too late. I wanted some way to change what had happened, and what I really needed to do was remember her for who she was and who she would always be to me.
I miss her. And I wish I could tell her that.