Monday, June 3
It was a short, sharp woof. Like someone blowing in my ear. Then a roar, accompanied by a hot wind that grabbed the Frisbee and blew it halfway across the lawn in front of the school. The force of the blast knocked me down. The next thing I knew, I was lying in the long grass, the stalks tickling my face and nose. People were screaming.
I pushed myself up and looked around. The beautiful people had been coming back from lunch and now they were bunched together in terrified knots. There were ashes drifting in the air like a weird, gray snow. The smoke was drifting across the sun and stinging my eyes. I stood up.
The windows all along the side of the building were spider webbed with cracks. The flames were schizophrenic reflections in them. People were still screaming.
I turned and all the sounds of my fellow students faded in the roar of the flames. Alan’s car had exploded, taking with it the cars on either side. They were a column of flame that belched clouds of black smoke. There were papers drifting across the grass, blown by the wind.
I don’t remember how long I stood there. It could have been seconds, or hours before the fire trucks and ambulances showed up, their flashing lights stabbing through the smoke. The screaming had stopped but now there were people running back and forth. Some were clearing the school, others were laying hose and more were herding students away from the scene.
At some point I glanced up to see the sun. Through the smoke it was a hazy orb the color of blood.
That’s what I remember.
Tuesday, June 4.
Yesterday my hand was shaking when I opened his locker. He’d gone to lunch and left his luck in a box in his locker. It took me awhile to realize that my hand was shaking so badly that I couldn’t work the combination lock.
Alan killed himself in the car yesterday. He always said he wanted to do things his way. None of us expected anything like that.
I managed to get his locker open on my fifth try. I took the box with his luck and put it in my backpack for the time being. He wouldn’t need it anymore and his family wouldn’t understand or know what to do with it.
I dodged the security guards and left the building only to have the reporters jump on me. Lights, cameras, microphones, heavily made up faces with overly styled hair. They were all asking me questions, voices struggling to drown each other out. “He was my friend.” I told them. “You wouldn’t have understood him.” Then I left.
They didn’t try to follow me. They probably didn’t believe me. How could I have been his friend if I wasn’t crying now that he was gone?
Nothing else happened yesterday.
Wednesday, June 5.
No one was seriously hurt in the explosion. Other than Alan of course, I think he planned it that way. A couple of people had been cut by flying debris and one had a minor burn from the flames. I don’t think Alan wanted to take anyone with him. He wasn’t that kind of person I think.
The grief counselors came today. They were probably worried by the small turnout. Most people had been shocked by the explosion but few of them had known who Alan was, much less been close to him. The counselor told me that I needed to accept the fact that Alan was gone. The asked if I had cried yet and explained that it was necessary to express and release the emotions built by his suicide. I nodded and went home to study.
They didn’t understand him. They didn’t understand us.
Friday June 7.
I woke up this morning at 3:30. I dreamed that I was standing on the lawn, just after the explosion. There was smoke in my eyes and ashes in my mouth but there was no sound. I looked next to me and Alan was standing there, watching me. He said, “We’re not who you think we are.” And then I jerked awake. I was gasping and drenched in a cold sweat. I couldn’t get back to sleep.
This afternoon the trauma counselor said I needed to find a way to remember the explosion without reliving it. He seemed a nice enough fellow but he didn’t understand that I had been quiet and withdrawn from almost the day I was born.
They all wonder why he did it. I guess they don’t understand what it’s like to be on the outside.
Saturday, June 8.
Life, faith and the Gods.
Every so often I think I can understand why he did it. It’s hard being unpopular, strange, different. The popular kids, the beautiful people Alan called them, they have each other. They are on the inside, and their world is like a fabulous ball, with everyone and everything glittering in the lights. They have each other.
People like us, the strange ones, we’re on the outside. We don’t have each other the way the beautiful people do. It’s as if, in order to be happy, we have a glass that needs to be filled. For people like Alan and me and the rest of us, the glass seems a whole lot bigger than it seems to be for the beautiful people.
They have all the friendship they could ask for, in their own shallow, self centered way. We are held apart from each other by the barriers the beautiful people made for us.
It gets cold out here, on the outside. We search for meaning in life, faith and the Gods, for meaning within ourselves. All we end up with is smoke in our eyes and ashes in our mouths.
Monday, June 10.
The last couple of days have been strange. Or maybe it’s just me. Nobody seems to miss Alan. They don’t even seem to remember him. They don’t call his name at attendance, they didn’t announce his name on the list of graduates, I never hear his name in the halls. Its almost like the name Alan has ceased to exist. They don’t even talk about the day he killed himself. The scorch marks in the parking lot have been washed away and the shattered windows replaced.
The beautiful people have each other. I have Alan’s luck.
Thursday, June 13.
Last night I graduated from high school. I wore the cap and gown, and was draped with cords and medals. My family cheered when my name was called, though few others did. I shook hands with the principal and the superintendent. I took my diploma, hugged my favorite teachers and sat through the last of the speeches. They never once mentioned Alan. They had already forgotten him.
When all the hugging and cheering was over, the beautiful people went off to their parties and I drove up to the hills to watch the sun set. It was a warm evening and as the sun went down the wisps of clouds turned red and orange. The sky turned purple and dark blue and then black as the light faded and the stars came out.
For most people, Alan won’t be a memory. While they try for years to forget the explosion they certainly won’t try to remember a strange person like Alan. He didn’t matter to them before, there is no reason to think that he should matter to them now.
But I will remember. Alan was a strange person, an outsider like me. Outsiders have to look out for each other, otherwise the beautiful people will take us apart from the inside. I will make sure the other people like us know who he was. I won’t forget him.
I have his luck.
- ► 2005 (18)