You woke up, eyes heavy. Vision blurred. Brain fuzzy. A soul full of laughter and joy.
Look at the clock: jesus christ it’s almost noon. How did you sleep this late, on a couch nonetheless. It’s medical school and you’re tired and on vacation visiting friends. You deserve this. You are at Shaliek’s apartment. Best friend from college. He’s in law school now. Cozied up on the couch with her on the eighth floor of this grungy building. This is exactly where you needed to be. Surrounded by friends and laughter. This is what you’ve been longing for.
You reach around for your phone – the coffee table, between the couch cushions, not there. Slip and wiggle your hand under her. Feel the rubber case and cold glass of the screen. Yank it from beneath her butt. Press that button on the side. So many notifications overlying a background of happy days. Who could want this much from you on a Saturday morning.
Mom: six missed calls, messages saying “call me, please”.
Missed calls from your brothers.
Dozens missed calls from various friends.
Stood up, her eyes cracked and she glanced up at you and you put your right index finger to your lips and gave her the “shh” gesture then she buried her face in the pillow and passed out again. Rubbed your eyes. Looked at all the notifications again.
Something isn’t right.
You gather yourself and call your brother. Uncomfortable silence for what felt like an eternity. You finally say: what is going on.
He doesn’t speak.
You repeat: What the fuck is going on.
Ryan, he replies.
What ABOUT RYAN, you yell.
You wait in silence.
Ryan’s dead, he says.
You stood there unable to form words.
The driver was drunk and…
The arm holding the phone to your ear falls to your side. You can’t comprehend what you’re hearing. You stand there limp. Blank. For minutes. You look at your phone: missed calls from Ryan. No… He called twelve hours ago. No questions because the why or how didn’t matter. Every context clue told you that what your brother said was true. With an empty face you toss your phone back on the couch. Walk to the door without a murmur. Step onto to the balcony. Look out into the city. A crowd gathered in the apartment looking at you at this point. You woke everyone up. Stand there with your back turned to them.
The sky is grey. The balcony wet. You huff and puff but eventually you succumb. And you just start crying. No. What the fuck. No no no no. You whimper. God please. No. You look into the sky searching for normal. But it’s not there. Grey clouds. No, PLEASE, no. And you quiver and tears pour and bury your face in your hands. This can’t be happening. No.
But it’s all so painfully real.
She walks out and asks what’s wrong. And you start shaking and crying harder. You tell her Ryan’s dead. She doesn’t ask any more questions. She just hugs you and let’s you cry. You bury your face in her shirt.
You didn’t know it then but life sucks sometimes and people you love will die. You will mourn and it will hurt but you will get over it.
But now, five years later, you know this is when everything changed.
Part 4: Rorschach Test