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26 Feb, 2015 04:45 AM

"Nick?" my best friend, Nathan, whispered as he laid in the bed next to me.

I didn't reply, but I believe he knew I was listening.

"I don't want to die yet." It was the simplest statement I had ever heard him make. Nathan was always one to put things into complex terms and use as many words as possible to make his meaning as clear as glass. But this time, he didn't need any embellishments.

"Neither do I," I wanted to say, but instead I just remained quiet. My fantasy was that we were both going to recover. The reality was that one of us wouldn't.


In second grade, my best friend was Ian Desmond. I had just moved to North Lake during the summer before the school year had started. On the first day of school, Ian stood out to me from the rest of the crowd of new faces. He was mostly bald, though he had a fine layer of white-blond hair beginning to grow out. I was curious, so I began talking to him.

I found out soon enough that a few months before I had moved here, Ian's best friend had been a girl named Belin. Belin was diagnosed with leukemia when she was four, and she spent the next two years- her last two years- desperately fighting it. Ian sadly told me about what he remembered as the cancer had progressed. When she was too weak to walk, he made sure that she was comfortable in her wheelchair; on the days when she was in more pain than usual, he did nearly everything for her so that she could rest; whenever she missed many days of school all at once, which became a more and more common occurrence, he collected work for her; he visited her at her house and the hospital whenever he could; when her hair was falling out from chemotherapy and she cried over it, he asked his mother to shave his head so that she wouldn't be alone. She'd died in April, when the cancer had spread through her body and was far too much for her body to handle.

I didn't quite know what to say to him after he revealed that. Most kids don't have to deal with the death of their best friend at such a young age. All I could manage to mumble was a halfhearted, "I'm sorry." He pulled a small blue beanie over his head of peach fuzz, simply replied that it wasn't my fault, and walked outside for recess. I knew that he was still hurting on the inside, though, so I decided to give him space and time to recover. Aside from the occasional small conversation brought on by necessity, we didn't speak again until December.


I heard the sheets of the bed next to me rustle, and I knew that Nathan was rolling over, getting ready to talk to me. He said my name a few times, trying to get my attention, but I didn't respond. Talking was difficult for me. After six tries to garner any sort of response from me, he gave up. I thought that he would roll over and go back to sleep, but to my surprise, he had more to say, whether or not I was listening.

"The nurse, she says I'm making a good recovery. And with some physical therapy, I might even be able to walk again. She says it's highly unlikely, but that there's a small chance, and, well... You know me..." he sort of trailed off here, and then decided to continue. "I like a challenge." He paused. I think he was considering how to word what he would say next. The words came out sounding choked, and I could tell without looking that he was close to crying. "I don't know why the world decides to do these things, but I know that it has to balance out the bad with good, and goddamnit, I'm getting my good out of this fucking mess." He was crying now, and in the darkness the sounds of his jagged inhales and shaky exhales drifted my way. "You-you've gotta m-m-make it too, Nick, you-ou-ou can't just-" Nathan interrupted his plea to cough and sniffle, a sure sign that he was sobbing. "Y-you have to get b-better, okay?"


Ian and I met again when my mom hosted a meeting for book club at our house and his mom brought him along. His mom couldn't find a babysitter in time, so she asked my mom if it was okay to bring him. My mom said sure, why not, since she has a son his age (me) who would probably love to have someone to play with while the meeting was going.

When Ian and his mom arrived, he was wearing the same blue beanie that he'd put on after our first conversation. When he pulled it off, I noticed that more of his hair had grown out. His mom and all of the other ladies piled their coats, gloves, purses, and scarves on the sofa by the front door. Since they somehow managed to take up all of the space on the sofa, Ian and I sat down by the sliding glass door that led to the backyard. We didn't talk at all; instead, we spent fifteen minutes watching the clouded sky for snow and glancing at each other for a quick second from the corners of our eyes. Eventually snow began to fall. We both got our mothers' permission to go play outside in it so long as we were bundled up.

I was about ready to open the door and fly out when I noticed that Ian didn't have any gloves on. I asked him if he owned a pair and he said no, his dad said that they couldn't afford any right now. I told him I had an extra pair and said that he could use them. He smiled, said thanks, then followed me to my bedroom, where I retrieved the gloves from a drawer and practically shoved them into his hands. We ran outside, Ian trailing a bit as he pulled on the gloves. We spent the rest of the book club meeting having a snowball fight, making snowmen and snow angels, and becoming friends. I felt disappointed when he left, and from that day on I knew that we would be best friends.


"Hey, Nick," I heard Nathan say. "It's been a while since the crash, and, uh... I'm just so damn sorry that it turned out like this." The wheels on his wheelchair softly squeaked as he nervously rolled himself back and forth. "When the firemen were pulling us out of the car I was just thinking, 'Goddamn, I'm never gonna be able to walk again. This fuckin' sucks.' And then we got here and... They had you and me both hooked up to all sorts of machines. I don't know what exactly all of them did, but they saved my life, those doctors and whatever they did, and I swear to God that they're gonna do the same for you. I mean, I'm praying here, and you know me, I'm not religious..." Nathan trailed off and sniffled a bit while scratching somewhere.

"I know it was sort of selfish of me to think I had it worse in the accident, but I never even thought that you would end up like this. You can't be mad at me for that. It was a crisis. Don't hold it against me, okay?" He took a long pause, and I could infer that he was searching for something to continue talking with. "I don't know how long I'm allowed to stay in here but they'll just have to kick me out of the room. You're gonna get better." His wheelchair squeaked as he rolled in it, and then the wheels lightly tapped the wall. He inhaled and exhaled deeply.

"I brought a book. I thought maybe I'd read while I was here since you can't really do much talking- any talking, I mean- but maybe, maybe you're listening and you want to hear, so I'll just read out loud. I haven't even started it yet so we can go through it together. But you don't have to listen. And maybe I'm just talking to no one, just to hear myself speak so I can feel better. I don't know.

"I bought a coffee from the cafeteria for you, too. I know you can't drink it so that was pretty stupid of me, but the sentiment stands. You used to have coffee every morning and it's been weeks since your last cup. It's almost November now, you know. You don't have to pay me back for the coffee, so don't worry about it. I'll probably end up drinking it anyway. Alright then, uh... I'll just start the book now. Chapter one."


When I was five and a particularly bad storm came through my town in the beginning of spring, pummeling windows with icy rain and wind, thunder and lightning all around, I hid in my parents' room until it had passed. On that day my mom told me the age old saying: March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb.

That's exactly what I told Ian the following spring when dark clouds began appearing in the sky. To my amazement, he had never heard that before. Sleet and rain took turns colliding with every surface in the city for three days with hardly a break, and after a single day of calmness, a lightning storm came roaring in, surprising nearly everyone. The biggest surprise for me came after the storm was finished, though.

I remember the news not fully registering in my mind the first time I heard it. A few words stuck in my mind: fire, house, sorry. I believed that this knowledge wouldn't affect me, however, so I didn't pay attention to my mom as she told me the story. This would explain her look of confusion at my lack of response, I suppose. I went to school, expecting Ian to tell me the same story- he was always interested in what was going on around the city- but he didn't show up that day. Nor the next. Nor the next. I asked my mom if she thought it was strange that he wasn't at school, thinking maybe he was sick. I can't imagine how much it must have hurt my mom to have to repeat the news to me so that I could actually understand what had happened.

A tall tree in Ian's front yard was struck by lightning and caught fire. It split apart and a chunk of the burning trunk and branches fell on their house, crashing through the roof and setting the whole house ablaze. The only people to make it out were his mother and younger sister; the tree had fallen into Ian's bedroom, blocking his only exits, and his father got caught in the fire while desperately trying to find a way to save his son.

I ran to my room and cried. My mom followed me and sat on my bed. Her presence was calming, and she listened as I screamed, wrapped her arms around me when I crawled into her lap, and shed tears of her own. I didn't attend school for an entire week following that, and the teacher wasn't surprised at all. In fact, I think she was more surprised that I'd shown up for the first three days back. Once the story got out and spread around, though, nearly all of the kids in our class weren't present for a short period of time, and even our teacher needed to take a few days to herself.


Nathan was visiting me again. Today he was much more quiet than usual, and I figured that I knew why. Finally, he spoke.

"Maybe you've heard- I don't know how this coma thing works- but the doctors and nurses are all saying that you're not gonna make it. And they're telling your parents that it might be, that it would be better to take you off and to let you-" He cut himself off. He couldn't manage to say the word. "I think they're going to, so I wanted to tell you some things while you still had a chance at hearing them, so, here goes.

"First of all, I really hated your cooking. We both knew that you weren't a master chef or something but God, I could barely stomach anything you made, even chocolate cookies from a box." He took a second to chuckle sadly. "And you know this already but I want to be clear, I hated your girlfriend in freshman year, man. Hated her so much that I never bothered to remember her name. Bad move going into that relationship, Nick, I told you it wouldn't end well.

"You already know everything else about me. I could make up something like 'I'm secretly a Bulgarian spy' but that's stupid and I'm not in the mood for joking around. All I have left to say is that you are, were, and always will be the greatest fuckin' friend I have ever had. You're my bro." I heard him wheel up to me, trying to stifle his tears, and then he grabbed my hand and used it to lamely fist-bump himself. "Hospitals suck, dude. This sucks."


Funerals are a somber occasion, especially when they're for a kid. Everything is smaller- the coffin, the number of people attending, and the time that you knew them as a person seem to shrink, as though you ran them all through the dryer and they came back out a million sizes too small. I sat quietly in the fourth row from the front, feeling nothing in particular. It was hard to find the inner strength to compose just one thought. I followed the crowd, doing exactly as they did since I'd never been to a funeral before. Most of the time that I remember from that day was spent crying without realizing that I had started to cry and trying to squeeze myself together to make everything hurt less.

When I got home, I laid down on my bed, staying quite and alone for quite some time. I don't remember when I got up or when I decided to go outside, but eventually I did. The next few years were mostly a blur, up until high school when the realization hit me that I'd had a new best friend for a year now. I don't remember how or why I became friends with Nathan. Sometimes the world is funny like that- it just throws things at you when you least expect them or when you're least likely to remember them, yet they end up changing your life for good.


The room is quiet.

The door opens. Three people walk in- I can tell from the number of voices I hear. Two of them I recognize- my parents- and one I don't. Probably a doctor. My parents are crying as the doctor is explaining something to them, but I don't really hear what he's saying. Suddenly, his voice comes through, loud and clear. He's counting down.

3. 2. 1.

The room is quiet.

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Sadaf Taqvi says:
24 Mar, 2015 08:02 PM

very well written. so sad

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sally says:
07 May, 2015 04:03 AM

I loved it so much <3 :) :(

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willow says:
07 May, 2015 04:06 AM

It was so good<3

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krazy says:
18 Aug, 2016 07:30 PM

so sad.. but the end isn't really complete I think?

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