Friday, my friend Kaija
and I walk back to the classroom to get some things we had forgotten. About to
turn down the hallway, I see my mother, walking in the opposite direction,
towards the staff bathroom, holding her nose, her face red, and crying. I break
away from my friend and run after her. I knock on the bathroom door, “Mom, Mom
what’s wrong? Mom let me in!” She opens the door and lets me in, still kind of
crying. “Mom, did you hurt your nose?”
“No, she says, I was
just trying to keep myself from crying,” she says.
“But why were you
crying?” Now I am worried.
“Do you remember Katrina
Bryant?” she asks me, looking at the floor.
“Yes kind of,” I reply.
It’s the truth. Her head droops.
She comes close to me
and says in a sort of whispery manner, “She killed herself last night.”
I close my eyes, I just
let it sink in, but it won’t.
We’re home now. It was a
half day at school. My mom says that West is devastated, that my older sister
Rita called her when she found out, sobbing. I didn’t cry, is that wrong?
Two of my friends came home from school with me. We
decide to make lemon bars, Rita’s favorite. I am more worried about my other
older sister Angie. She was in the same 3rd and 4th grade class as Katrina, and
they went to the same middle school and high school, until yesterday....
The lemon squares pretty much
end up as lemon soup but I know my sisters appreciate the thought. As I lie in
bed that night I think a lot. It still doesn’t seem real, like a dream. I
always wondered what it would be like if someone you knew died. This wasn’t
what I was expecting. There are a million things going around in my head. It is
almost too much to handle, but somehow I fall asleep easily.
We have all of our
yearbooks out, folded onto the pages with Katrina on them. Every once and
awhile, when I pass them, I have these surges of emotion like, “Whoa, she’s
actually gone. She was alive and now she isn’t. I, (or anyone else) will never
see her again. Imagine if I were closer to her.”
The whole weekend long I
think about it. It still doesn’t seem real. Still, like a dream, I want to wake
up, but I can’t. Saturday my mother ponders murder, but not for long. I think
about it too. Now I feel like I am in the movie.
For a split second I
imagine myself, solving the case and becoming a hero, but it doesn’t last long.
In all the adventure stories I read, I usually wish that was me. I think, I
could do all that, I wish something exciting would happen. But now, facing this,
a chance for the smallest of small adventures, I don’t have the heart. All
right, you win heroes and heroines of my favorite books, I could never do that.
Monday. Today Linda (my
teacher) talks with us about Katrina. She says, you are never alone and there
is no situation you can’t get through, there is always a way out. This talk
makes me sad and confused. Why would Katrina take her own life, why did she?
She always seemed like the happiest person.
I don’t remember much
about her. A flash of her face smiling a grin so wide her eyes squinch. Sitting
right beside my sister in band concerts, playing her clarinet. But mostly, the
most strong memory, surrounded by friends, in their graduation dresses, getting
ready for their speeches, giggling and fixing her hair and makeup in the mirror
in the girl’s bathroom. All I remember about her is happiness. She was always
smiling when I saw her.
This makes me even more
sad, and a little upset. These things shouldn’t happen, so why do they? It’s
quite frustrating. I’ve never thought about death this way. Whenever I hear
about a suicide, I think oh, that’s sad. But it never really affected me. But
now, when it has happened to someone I knew, I can’t stop thinking about it.
Flashes of emotion
happen regularly now, every time I see her picture, or think about her.
Sometimes there is this one strong feeling that I want to hold on to long
enough to understand it, but this never happens, it always leaves my thoughts.
It seems like a physical thing that I am trying to catch. I rarely see
it, but I desperately want it. I try to fake the waves of sadness, and make the
feeling come, but it never works. I want to put the feeling into words but I
can’t, it always goes.
The week goes by fairly
normally. There aren’t many people left in the school who knew her. I didn’t
really. I kind of wish I had, so I could understand what other people are going
through. But also I’m glad I didn’t, so I don’t have to be heartbroken now that
she’s gone. But to me, that seems really selfish. So, in total, I don’t know
what I want or feel really, I am still trying to figure that out.
Friday. They are having
a memorial service for her at our school in the evening. Everyone will be
there. I will be too. My friend Emily and I get there about the same time
because we just came from our volleyball game. We change out of our jerseys and
into normal attire, and start down the hall. We sign yearbooks and papers
giving our messages about Katrina. As I do this I become really sad, the
feeling is here. I think it would stay but it doesn’t.
I have a good time that
night. Emily and I mostly play in the gym. That kind of makes me mad at myself.
“This is not a time for play, you should be mourning!” It doesn’t make sense
but I wish I were sadder. I feel like I am being disrespectful by having fun.
Soon the war with myself is disrupted, because they are setting the lanterns!
Everyone stands outside in the cold setting off floating lanterns like the ones
in ‘Tangled’. They are magnificent. I expect more people to be sad, but mostly
all I see is smiling faces, knowing that she is safe up there looking down on
Watching the lanterns
rise up until they are just dots by the moon is the most beautiful thing I have
ever seen. I know I will remember this night forever. Emily and I release one
each and one together. Up until now I kind of felt like I didn’t belong, but
now I know that just being here shows that I care, and that’s what everyone needs
right now, so I feel better.
Emily and I stand back
and watch. Some are heart shaped and red, and others are rectangular and white,
and they are all so beautiful. I see some of Katrina’s closest friends setting
off ones with signatures and messages on them. They really loved her, and now
she’s gone. I bet she really regrets it, I bet she really does. I would. I cry
for the first time now, for so many different reasons I can’t even recite them.
Saturday. Today was the
funeral, but I didn’t go. I wish I would’ve, but even after last night I still
feel like I don’t belong. My mom and Angie went, they said it was a beautiful
service. I really wish I would’ve gone, but I didn’t, and I can’t change that.
I know this doesn’t
happen for everyone who dies, but I wish it would. It did for Katrina because
she was a great girl, everyone loved her, and misses her. So we did something
beautiful for her, and this is the story of it--well my version. I wish my
story were better, but this is all I have to offer. But from now on I know I
will never look at any death the same way again. Now I know, behind
every tragedy there is a story.
This story uses the real names of the people involved. The family of Katrina
Bryant gave permission for the story to be entered in the contest and