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Many say that some people you meet in your life can change you drastically as a person. I never truly believed in this concept until I met Crystal. It was my first day of second grade schooling at Mary Weather Elementary. I had from just moved here Columbus, Ohio in the summer of 1999, and I couldn’t have been more frightened to step into that unknown territory called school. I had no friends, no dignity, and no lunch, which my mom forgot to pack for me the night before. As I walked into the big stone archway of the school, my insides turned; it was the most bizarre panic feeling I’ve ever experienced. I somehow managed to make my way through the crowd to room 112 where I was warmly greeted by a rather plump looking women with curly blonde hair, m “Hello there and welcome to second grade. Put your things in your cubby with your name and find a seat.” This calmed my nerves and I then continued to do what I was told. After putting my things down, I franticly looked around for a place to sit. I had this empty helpless feeling.
As a searched the room I saw little groups of friends already starting to form. This hadn’t changed from grades K-12, there were always groups of friends and they all seemed to have labels like a soup can. For instance, The Preps, Goths, Freaks, Nerds, these labels got more specific as the years went on and soon there was Dirt Bags, Druggy’s, Mathletes, and so on. I saw young girls exchanging their adventurous stories of things they had done over the summer and the amazing places they visited. I had no stories, traveled nowhere but a few thousand miles north with some cardboard boxes and a small Volkswagen Beatle, to what I now am suppose to call my “ home.” I looked for an open seat in the corner where I could slide into, maybe no one would notice that I hadn’t found anyone to sit with and that I had no friends. With my dignity gone and no hope left I at last scurried into a seat at an empty table at the far side of the room. I took out my Spice Girl’s notebook and with my pink fuzzy pen I started to write. All of a sudden I felt a small hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw a small tiny girl, she had beautiful long brown hair, and deep ice blue eyes that could make you go into shock with one glance.
“Hi, my name is Crystal, Beckenfeild and I’m 7, what’s your name?”
“Mercedes.”, I said this quietly but with content, there was just something about her that comforted me from the start. It was like a feeling of ease out of all the tension.
“Like the car?!” rejoiced Crystal. “Yeah I guess you can say that”
“I’m new here and I don’t have anyone to sit with. Can I sit with you?” Crystal asked quietly. I will never forget that moment. It was like the ending of this nightmare I had been in which seems like since the minute I left Ohio. I didn’t know it at the time but my life would absolutely never be the same.
Crystal and I became the best of friends; we went together like ice cream and hot fudge. We were inseparable. I told her everything, and I’m pretty sure she told me the same. When her parents got a divorce, she stayed at my house for over a week and cried every second of the day. Like a true friend, I was there to console her. Every weekend we were together. One summer I remember we hung out everyday for a month. You would think we would get sick of each other but that never did occur, it was like we were the same person. We became so close by the fifth grade we could finish each other sentences. Fights were very rare; it was mostly like arguments about which guy was hotter, or whose profile had the better quote, stupid little things. It was like the perfect friendship.
One day that I’ll never forget, we were sitting around in the summer of ‘01 on a hot day in late July bored out of our minds, and Crystal had an idea to make one of those time capsules of our friendship. Since we had no fancy technology, we took a snow shovel from my garage, my Brother Mark’s shoe box, and placed valuable items of our past in it. We kept for instance a worn out picture of us on my trampoline, and another of us at our second grade field day dressed in red jumpsuits matching of course. We also placed items that resembled what we wanted to achieve in our future.
For some wild reason Crystal had this crazy passion ever since 3rd grade to own her own Airplane Company and be the head pilot. She dreamed of flying one of those Piper Pa-24 Comanche’s, I never really knew “plane” lingo as you could say, but she explained it to me as riding on a dream. So in our box she placed a model of a red piper air plane given to her by her grandpa. In my box I placed that months July issue of Teen Vogue with all the new fashion styles and do’s and don’t. My dream was to be a big time publisher for Teen Vogue in New York City and design all the new layouts for the magizine.
“Let’s put something we both love!” exclaimed Crystal. “Like what?” I said.
“How about the notebook. Don’t you remember?” I did remember. You see, we had this “secret” notebook as we called it of all the things we did in the summer 01’. It was a black and white marble school notebook with blue duck tape on it that said our names in big black bold letters. It contained every note we wrote to each other, about what high school would be like, her wild obsession with my brother, and our deepest darkest secrets. This book never occurred to us as being anything more than something we did out of boredom, but in the years to come we would see it would be the only thing that kept us together, keeping our friendship strong to the last minute of it.
With that we placed the notebook into a plastic covering to keep it from getting damaged and tossesd it in with all of our hopes and dreams, than closed the shoebox. We found a spot in my backyad to dig the hole, we marked it with an American flag and we were done. The flag would symbolize our friendship; strong, united, and would never fall.
For my ninth birthday, Crystal got her and I tickets to see our favortie artist Brittney Spears at Arena Dome, in Breech wood, Pa. I was estatic! So in the weeks following we planned what outfits we would wear, how we would do our hair, and then finally the day came. I remember it clearly. It was May 27th, a warm spring day. Barbara, Crystal’s mom, picked me up for a five o’clock show. As we pulled up to the dome after three hours in traffic, our faces gleamed with joy. Our biggest fantasy was that she would pull us up on stage with her to sing with her. The seat usher escorted us to our front row seats. Crystal and I screamed with joy neither her nor I knew that these seats were going to be in the front row. As it came close to showtime and they announced “BRITTNEY SPEARS!” over the speakers, we started jumping widly. The whole crowd cheered as well as us. At intermission we walked over to the consession, I remember it clearly, I order a hot dog and cheese fries, and she orderd he favorite BBQ cheesburger with a cherry coke. It was that moment I would never forget, that specific moment that jarred my memory for a lifetime. The exact scent of greasy french fries, the sight of venders in funny blue hats luring customers in swallowing them whole with their acts of selling off over priced merchandise, and the sound of that bone chilling scream that seemed to make time stop flat in its tracks. Everything was slowing down except for me as I turned towards where Crystal was standing and saw her collapsed on the floor, her body was as stilll as undisturbed water in a lake. The scream came from a lady who was kneeling beside Crystal yelling for an ambulance; I fell to her side trying to shake her, “Crystal wake up come on! Crystal? PLEASE!!”
In two minutes an ambulance arrived and cleared the people crowding around the scene, they lifted her ever so gently and placed her onto a stretcher. There was only room in the ambulance for one person so Crystal’s mother automatically jumped in, although I begged the people to let me come in there was no sense. They explained to me it was too dangerous and slammed the doors in my face and sped away to the nearest hospital. As the ambulance proceeded on its journey down the road time seemed to speed up again, and everything seamed to go back in its order; people went back to eating their meals, venders proceeded to sell their products, but I was changed forever. Nothing went back in order for me, from this day forward my innocence would be snatched away from me like someone taking candy from a baby.
Crystal stayed in the hospital for what seemed like forever but was only really five days. The doctors could tell what was wrong with her right away. I remember the day I found out too. I came home from school and my mother was smoking more than usual. She must have had seven cups of coffee before she finally sat me down on my leather white couch in the center of my living room. She hesitated for the longest time and the silence was unbareable, “What is it mom?
“Mercedes, today Crystal was… well… she was diagnosed with leukemia. You see a lot of the symptoms of leukemia are fatigue and weakness and with the two together she just couldn’t take it and collapsed. At that moment in time I felt the weight of the world was on my shoulders, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing so I went into a state of denial. I had to see for myself. The next day my mom drove me to the hospital, the whole car ride there I was biting my nails, what would she look like? What do I say if this really all isn’t a dream? As my mom and I walked down the long stretched white marble hallways, the intensity was at a high. I walked slowly into the room and saw a small fragile figure lying in the bed with wires and pumps and everything you could think of coming in and out of her. At that very moment reality kicked in and tears came to my eyes. I remember thinking to myself I can’t cry, I won’t cry but I could not help it. I sat next to her on the bed.
“Hey,” she said. The sound of her voice was a strain and I could tell she was in pain. “Hi,” at that moment in all of the time we had been friends I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was still in shock.
“I cant wait to get out of here so we can go see that new Saw movie, I hear its amazing” I just smiled back, I felt my eyes getting warmer and everything became blurry I began to sob at her bedside. I sat there for at least a half an hour with her just talking about everything. We talked about how the rest of the concert must have sucked with out us there, and I started to tell her about all the new gossip in school. The nurse finally came in and told me visiting hours were over. “I’ll be back tomorrow right after school,” I said.” “Well I’m certainty not going anywhere,” she chuckled.
Everyday after school for the next couple of weeks, I took the public busses downtown to Merry Weather Medical Hospital. Everyday I brought Crystal and I our favorite strawberry and cream Frappacinos from Starbucks. I sat up in that hospital everyday from 3:00-5:30 P.M. and we talked just about everything. I brought her our favorite Seventeen Magazines and we would cut pictures out of the hottest guys and post them all over the room “to give it some spice,” as she called it. On Sundays I taped our favorite show Desperate Housewives and brought it in for us to watch.
The doctor said she should have been getting better from all the treatments she was being put through but that wasn’t the case, her health was deteriorating and each day she was getting worse and worse. The illness was bringing her down like a brave solider, being attacked by an army of men. It was a million to one. The disease was so powerful, so strong and although she was too, Crystal was only one person and it seemed that this disease was taking the best of her. With this realization of losing Crystal I began to lose hope.
Weeks turned into months and Crystal was moved into the Critical Care Unit. I continued with my daily visits. Everyday she was as happy to see me as she was the day before. We had many talks when we were friends, family problems, school, and just about life. There was this one talk we had though I remember it vividly. It was August 24th a late Wednesday afternoon. I rode the bus downtown to the hospital everyday, and walked straight up to the 2nd floor to Critical Care. I became such a regular there that every nurse knew my name. As I walked into Crystal’s room like everyday I got chills and the sight of her always shocked me but I was beginning to adapt. By now she was very frail and her legs were like tooth picks, she had what looked like black bruises beneath her eyes from the treatments, and her face always looked tired and in a daze. I pulled up a seat next to her bed and she smiled. Her presence was just joyful, maybe it was because her bravery or her inner strength. I saw the true strength she had more than ever now. She began to talk with a raspy voice that I could just barely understand what she was trying to say. “I’m not doing too good am I?” Holding back tears I said, “No your fine, you’ll come out of this you can fight it, the doctors say many people beat this disease.” “But those people improve and I’m not improving, the charts say that my heart rate is decreasing by the minute.” Angrily I said, “Crystal stop!”
“I don’t know Mercedes I just feel it’s not going to turn out good.” I consoled her and with a brave face and told her, “I won’t let you die Kris it won’t happen”
At school I had many other friends to talk to, but none like Crystal. She was in almost all my classes and without her the days just dragged. Classmates came up to me asking if she was ok, and I said she was totally fine and that she would be back to school in about a week. Crystal always looked on the bright side of situations but hearing her doubtful words, made me doubt just as much. I wasn’t sure of anything or how bad the disease could take her down but every Sunday at church I just prayed that she wasn’t right, I prayed for a miracle.
Crystal got so weak that she lost her strength to speak. We had no way of communicating it was like losing her but she was still there. I just needed a way to hang onto her for a little while longer. It was a frigid November day and I walked into my backyard with a shovel at hand. I found the spot where we had buried the time capsule and started to dig. By the 4th hour I finally had reached it. Looking through the memories of the box was the most difficult thing I wondered if she would ever really be able to fly in the Piper-Pa. I finally got to my main purpose of the capsule which was the notebook.
The next day at the hospital I took out the notebook and placed it on her bed. She smiled and stared at the book for the longest time. I flipped through the hundreds of pages with her reading everything we wrote; she tried giggling but only coughed in pain. Than I flipped to the next new sheet of paper and handed her a pen. This is the way we communicated with each other for the next few days. Crystal wrote me small blurbs of conversations and I would write back, although her handwriting was weak and not so legible it was a great way for us to stay in touch.
The day that we both secretly feared came too fast. It was the second week of our new writing system and everything seemed to be going constant. Crystal’s health was not improving but it wasn’t deteriorating eit0her. I remember that it was a November night and I was beginning to pack up my things to head home from the hospital I went to go give Crystal a hug goodbye and she grabbed the book from my hand and gestured that she would take it for the night. I had no problem with it so I left the book and a pen on her night table and started home.
The next day was like any other. I made my 10 minute trip to the hospital stopped off to pick us up some hot chocolates and entered the hospital doors. There was a cold feeling about the building that day. I guess you could say it was sign, it was like I knew something was wrong. I walked my way up to her room, and took that last cold turn into the door marked 222. When I entered the room I heard no beeping of the heart monitor or the humming of the oxygen mask. I saw nothing but a quite empty bed with its sheets tucked tightly underneath the mattress and one clean covered pillow. I zoned out and my stomach got this gut wrenching feeling like I was speeding down an elevator shaft at about 200 miles an hour. I didn’t know what to do, think, say, I could barley move. When I finally came back into focus I rushed out the door and to the nearest nurse station. I asked where they had taken Crystal or if she had been moved to a different floor or room. The three nurses at the station just stood there looking at each other. I wanted to know information! Why couldn’t they tell me! The nurse Linda asked me to please sit down as they went to go get a doctor. At that moment I knew Crystal was gone. I had seen it before, everyday I went in that hospital there was a new person sitting on the same couch I was. I called these people the helpless ones, with their beat red faces and cries of sadness as they broke down by the minute and the doctors trying to console them in a soothing gentle manner.
I must have thought of thousands scenarios where they could have taken her before the doctor finally came out and sat down next to me. He took a deep breath and with this soft gentle tone he explained to me that the cancer just spread to all parts of her body and her heart couldn’t take it. He told me that she had died this morning around 2 am. That day I was the helpless one.
It was like I had died that morning. The days just dragged on. I had no hope for anything else in my life, my last bit of it was taken when Crystal died. The funeral came and went, and now instead of going to the hospital everyday and I went down to the cemetery everyday from 3:00-5:30. It was like I wasn’t able to let go of the routine, I still believed she was right there beside me.
About a week went by and I was sitting in my room after dinner doing my homework when I heard the doorbell ring. As I opened the door I saw Crystal’s mom standing there with the blue covered notebook in her hand. She handed me the notebook explaining that it was one of the things the nurses collected from her room, and that it was found in her hand at the time of her death. I read the last few sentences she wrote and they were dated the night before she has passed away. As I read the letter it was like she was right beside me reading it so I could hear her voice with every word I read. The letter read Mercedes- this is if I never see you again and I am gone…. just please remember this: you are the strongest person I know no matter what anyone says. I know that you don’t think you will be able to go on without me. But somehow I know you will find a way. You’re really the best friend I ever had because really you saved me. I know that’s a totally crazy thing to say, but you did. I would have never held on this long if you weren’t there beside me. You gave me hope no matter what pain I was in. So I guess you were like my guardian angel, and now I’m going to be yours. –Kris. At that moment I looked up into the dark maroon sky and I saw a jet fly by and for once in the longest time I had hope, because I knew she was finally at peace with her dreams and flying high in the sky.
Port Pirie, ZZ