Sunday, March 30.
Casey’s mom was out of town, opening up the little Bucks County apartment to a gathering of longtime friends. The shindig was graced with an overwhelming amount of good energy, good food and good people.
An aroma rose from the kitchen. It crept around the corner and filled my nostrils with intrigue.
“Whatchya making?” I asked the grinning face behind the steam.
“Eat it,” he answered, filling my empty hands with a plate. It was an immediate success, the asparagus and squash tossed with garlic he made simply because, “Why not?”
More friends arrived as the night wore on.
“How’s school? Did you hear what she said? Don’t drink that, it’s expired. Apples to Apples? What exactly is the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”
“Alright, see you guys around!”
It’s always a pleasure to hang around with old friends. Alcohol has a passionate relationship with nostalgia, and the dose was just right.
“Hey! It’s the cops. Get up.”
“Good morning,” the officers offered, staring at a living room full of disoriented teenagers. There were two of them standing at the top of the stairs, scanning the room and scribbling answers to vague questions. Only one officer spoke.
“None of you are in trouble,” he kept saying. “Everyone is OK,” he kept saying.
“Can you identify these three men?”
“That’s Jake, Joe and Ben,” Casey wearily answered, picking out their identities from the printed license photos. “Everyone seemed fine when they left, officer.”
Everyone was fine.
The three of them left, waving and shouting their goodbyes as they descended the stairs, and slammed the door on any sense of functioning reality.
“I can’t give you any details due to the ongoing investigations, but I’m sure you’ll hear about this through the grapevine.”
New message: J: Were you at that party?
Because little did we know, everything was not fine. Jake was stabbed in the chest. The poor soul had every kind intention to help as he walked through his best friend’s – his murderer’s – front door. It was too late.
Joe was no longer a person; he was a spiraling hallucinogenic disaster. The man on mushrooms was responsible for stripping his life away. Joe isn’t a monster, just a man that fell off the edge of intoxicated splendor.
At 2:30 a.m. when the police responded to a fatal stabbing on Kasmir Avenue, he was no longer a person, either. He became a compilation of every smile, every handshake, every idolized memory he left behind.
One hour separated our hug goodbye from the moment he drew his last breath – 3,600 frozen seconds in time that fell together in the universe’s web of unfathomable circumstances.
Monday, April 7. 9 a.m.
I’m digging through the back corner of my closet marked “funeral attire,” watching the clock. I’m running out of time, I thought, hurriedly slipping a black dress over the head I’ve been fighting to hold high.
Time is an invention designed to capture the universe as it spins from one moment to the next. A man who was once a crowd pleaser is now in a closed casket – a testament to the fragility of human life under the elements.
And here I am riding the minute hand of the clock down a dizzying spiral; I am hanging on for dear life in fear of the moment it’s my turn to lose my grip.
It was empty, the day I said goodbye. A sea of shattered hearts filled the funeral home, each painted with a familiar face. Condolences rolled off the tongue in a desperate attempt to lick the wounds, but failed to fill all of the spaces in between.
The minute hand will continue to spin, winding the collective hole in our chests closed. Fond memories will string each broken piece together; we will be whole again. But until then, I will battle on with the notion that this just wasn’t fair, and it never will be.
Between the contagious laugh that disappeared down the stairs and the presence that has disappeared forever.
I’ve never felt so mortal.
Brianna Spause can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.