I’m going to try to remember how it happened.
The night before was spent online. It was still Yahoo Messenger then, so vintage. We talked about icky boys and homework and group reports, well into the morning. I said good night before you, as my usual. Or maybe I fell asleep on you (that was my real usual). I woke up the next day expecting two things from you—a good night message laughing at whatever letter I’ve slept on. Ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp. And a good morning text sent hours before my brain would be properly awake. I was disappointed on both points.
Strange, I thought. But okay. I texted, good morning. Sorry about the deluge of P’s blahblahblah MRT complaint blahblahblah work’s gonna suck like usual but I hope you have an awesome day. Hours and people and emails passed. The morning passed. Still nothing. That afternoon, a few hours after lunch break, my phone rang, blinking your name. Weird, I thought. We were texters, not callers, unless there was an emergency. Like, ‘our gross classmate thinks you like him, ew’ kind of emergency. Like, ‘our group report is not making sense and it’s due this week. HELP.’ Why only now? was my other thought. I’ve been waiting for your texts since this morning! I picked up the call, let out the words to lovingly berate your tardiness. It was so unusual of you to be late, by the way. You were always prompt. Early, even.
I didn’t hear your voice at the end of the line. There were hiccups instead, and sobs. A low wail that formed my name. This is her mom, said the voice. She’s gone. She died this morning. But what about my birthday? was my first idiotic thought. Because you said we were going to celebrate my birthday as if I were turning 18. With a sleepover and many bottles of alcohol, tasting menu style. After that single flash of memory, it was darkness, and cold. Horrible, gripping, heart-numbing cold. But not enough to numb anything, not really. Not my mangled heart, or my legs that felt useless beneath me, sending me to the floor. Not my arms that felt stiff and heavy and unable to carry the weight of my head as I sobbed and groveled, staring at nothing, tuning out everything. Light, sound, soothing words, consoling hands, all sense and meaning. You were gone. Everything was gone.
Somehow I managed to get up. Wrench myself out of the pain. Finish the day, close up the vault, log out my computer. I managed to reply to texts. Yes, it’s real. She’s gone, I told them all. The wake will be tomorrow. Ask me again tomorrow.
I walked to church. I don’t remember what I did there. I don’t remember what I found. Was it solace? Was it peace from the buzzing of prayers and penance around me? Was it your presence, the tactile memory of your voice, your words in my head, your last hug, lingering on my skin, filling up my chest?
I got up from the pew, wiped my wet cheeks, and stopped by a Zagu cart on my way home. I bought a small cup of pearl shake, flavored crème brulee. Because the night before, amidst the talk of icky boys and pending schoolwork and things we dream of and things that hurt us, you told me how drinking crème brulee shake with extra pearls reminded you of sunlit, carefree days.