Semi-Autobiographical story following a young girl coping with the death of her closest friend, near New Years Day. It watches the character through the hardest time of her life and the obstacles that she has to face.
Two thousand and eleven New Year’s resolution: for my life to change. That’s the first and last one I’ll ever make.
Two days afterward I had already decided that this year was the worst year of my twenty years of living. I wish it was the melodrama of a simple love story, I do more than wish. I dream about this day again and again, changing the way one phone call began and ended. I dream that I cry over boys or family arguments, but those dreams don't last long; I become preoccupied with keeping my memory of her alive.
Two days after my resolution, I got my wish. My best friend had died.
There isn't one day I don't relive the moment my life changed. The phone call, the stupid question; “what do you mean?” The way my brain finally grasped what he was telling me and then the tears. Those lasted a long time. I never really understood the stages of grief; I just thought it was a way for psychiatrists to make more money, as if they didn't already have enough. But they're true, all five. It's just no one tells you how long each one lasts, or that one or two combine so you don't know what you're feeling... Or that the fourth stage, depression, lasts longer than you expect. I only realised I was in this stage six months after the day. I'm still waiting for the fifth and final stage. I'll keep you posted.
The truth about death is everyone comes together. You're still alone. It’s like that song I heard over the radio one time: 'I'd rather just be alone, if I know that I can't have you.'
It’s hard to admit, but the people who are trying to help you become white noise. You don't want to block them out, but you do. It's like the only way to get past it is to be alone, because nothing, nothing at all can change the past. Nothing anyone says, nothing anyone can do. Nothing seems to be able to do everything. So I'll become nothing, and I'll do everything to get my life on track. I'll start a new life.
It's my own fault, right? I'm the one who wished for it.
The amount of people who believe that wishes come true is dwindling; I was with the ones who didn't believe. I now know that wishes do come true. But it's not in the way you were told in your childhood innocence, wishes are evil. No one tells you that everything has a catch. I know what my catch was and I'm paying for it for the rest of my changed life.
The idea of this is to jot down what I'm feeling for twelve months after the 'event' as some people like to call it. Why don't they just say what it is? Its death, it’s someone dying, someone leaving forever. This little task seems to be the only way everyone agrees that it will make me 'better'; my family, my friends, the councillors, whoever is interested. I'm not sick. I don't quite understand how they can attempt to cure me when I'm not sick. I'm not dying, I don't need help.
Apparently that's the denial talking. Well, we'll see.
So whoever is reading this, and I don't know why you are, you're about to embark on the spectacular adventure of Nicky McKenzie's life. And I say that with dollops of sarcasm, trust me. For you, perhaps, it'll be an adventure. For me, it's about getting through life one day at a time, documenting it, as if I'm living under a microscope. I tried to tell them I'm not going to lose it. They wouldn't believe me. The know it all’s.
Hey. If you're lucky, something interesting might actually happen...
So, we're starting off in the month of the 'event'. Try not to have too much fun.
It turns out I'm not as strong as I thought. Neither was my relationship. I went into some form of a breakdown when Kate died. At the time I hadn't realised it; I thought I was acting exactly like my normal self. But now, when I look back, I realise that shutting yourself into your room and locking the world out, isn't exactly what everyone else calls 'normal'. It didn't last too long in all fairness. I came crawling out after a week, once I heard my mother cry down the phone to my Nan. I suppose acting like an actual piece of me died doesn't exactly help me. It also doesn't help when you make your own family feel like they've lost a daughter, too.
I was lost, I suppose. Realising this shook me out my dishevelled shell.
I was still in breakdown mode; let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Because, you can't really expect much when someone you love dies. If you expect certain things to happen, then you'll be sadly disappointed. Death isn't easy, so why should the aftermath be? That's why I had to break it off with John: my boyfriend of six months and the first thing I had to make right. It wasn't fair for him to fall down with me now, was it?
The day he came to see me, I led him to my room.
“I would have come earlier, but your mum said there was no point. What does that even mean, Nick?”
“What?” I said, distracted.
He took my hands which forced me to look at him, “Nick, you know I'm here for you, don't you?”
“I know,” I said it so simply. I understand that I wasn't acting myself. But, if you've ever gone through anything like this, maybe you'd understand. It was like I wasn't controlling myself. I wanted to thank him so much for putting up with me, hold him, even smile. I just couldn't.
“Nicky,” he breathed. I took my chance to take a look at him. His blue eyes were sad and his brown hair was visibly untidy. Not in its usual way. It was a result of worrying too much about me, for some reason.
“I'm sorry.” This was all I could say.
“You don't need to say sorry, Nick,” he said and I realised he was crying.
“I wish I could – I can't. It's not fair.” I felt the wet streak fall down my cheek. “I can't put you through this, when you don't have to. It's not fair.”
John's left hand went slowly to my cheek and with his thumb he wiped the single tear away. “I know. Shush. I know.” Both of his hands were now touching the side of my face with a softness that made this so much harder. “You don't have to say it, Nicky. I know. It doesn't mean I'm not still here for you.”
“Thank you.” I attempted a smile but it felt wrong.
I felt his lips on my forehead and then he left, but not before he said; “You've still got my number, remember?”
Breaking up is hard in any situation; add a death and well, you can imagine.
Time, for me, just seemed disjointed. So when the day of the funeral came, I couldn't believe it. When I look back to this particular month, January to those who are still normal, it's just numb. I don't think there's another word for it. Not only was I feeling, well, nothing. The month didn't hold anything either. The days were too fast and yet every second dragged. I'm not making sense, trust me, I know. Death doesn't make sense, though, does it?
I had never been to a funeral before; nobody's really died in my life previous to Kate. There was my Nan, but my family thought I was too young to go. So, preparing me for what was going to happen was a new kind of different. You don't expect people to casually describe what funerals are like because, naturally, it's not a thing you want to speak about. I understand that. I do. The helplessness I felt just didn't. I really wanted to know how I would feel, because I didn't want to crumble without knowing that I would.
I went with three friends and when I arrived the atmosphere hit me. For some reason, when imagining what this day would be like, I forgot that there would be people crying. I don't know why. Thinking about it, you'd have guessed that would be an obvious factor. Not to me, not then. I didn't cry at first; I wanted to make sure that everyone else was okay. My little bubble within the previous weeks had blocked everybody out of my life and though they all were in pain, it helped to know that we were going through the same thing. It sounds a bit twisted, doesn't it? Well, I think what I'm trying to say is; to anyone who has never been to a funeral or who is about to go to one, you're not going to be alone, even if it is just for one day.
Now to explain the ceremony, I heard it was beautiful. There was a clip of her singing, a speech from her family member and a song from the school choir. Unfortunately, I never made it inside. Not in a way you would expect. Just that, the room was so packed full of people wanting to say goodbye, some had to wait outside. That's beautiful. I'm so happy that she was so loved and will be missed to that extent. I just don't know if not being able to say that goodbye you're meant to have, affected me in any way differently to anyone else. I guess that's what makes this day a little less important, personally. Though, some people might say it was important in the way it altered my thinking over the next few months.
Afterwards, there was a wake. I don't really remember speaking to anyone much between the two events. Perhaps that was the numbness taking effect. At the wake, people were smiling but the atmosphere didn't match. I remember laughing, but I don't remember why. There was hollowness to it. I suppose that's how people get through a death – trying to regain control of your lives to make up for the loss of control on your feelings. I'm not an expert, so don't quote me on that.
I didn't stay too long – weak willed, I guess. When I went to say goodbye to a friend, he was standing next to one of Kate's family members. I don't know why I didn't realise it at first.
“This is Nicky,” he said, and Kate's aunty – I realised – looked at me with a new sort of expression.
“Yes.” My voice wobbled.
“Well, come here,” she said as she pulled me into a hug. I was shocked to say the least, because I hadn't cried. I had held control, but I was losing it. “I want you to know that she loved you,” she had started murmuring. “Kate loved you.”
“Thank you,” I cried as I pulled away.
“She spoke about you, all the time.”
“Thank you.” I knew I was repeating myself but I didn't know what else to say.
“She thought the world of you.” Her aunty, then, started to cry just as I tried to wipe all my tears away. “Come on, now, we need to be brave.”
At that I forced a smile as we sat and watched a photographic slide show of Kate through the years. I did, eventually, say goodbye. I think that encounter affected me in the way it did because, for some reason, I didn't think anyone would know who I was. Well, really, I'm not important in this situation. I was just there, to be. I wanted to be in the background. It's easier that way.
It hit me to be told that my best friend loved me that much, by a family member I have never met. I wanted to tell Kate that I loved her back, right there. Then I remembered that I couldn't. It’s a funny thing that; the mind. Even now, it takes a few moments to realise in the morning that she's gone.
When I arrived home, I changed into something new. We were going out that night; a celebration of her life - something like that. I chose a skirt and a t-shirt tucked in. It sounds weird – I am weird, I suppose. I wanted to have homage to Kate. She loved me wearing dresses and skirts because she knew I didn't wear them that much. Not only do I hate my legs, wearing a skirt just brings me paranoia. I did, though, that night and have continued to bring out the dresses and skirts for her. I think I'm actually warming to them. I blame Kate.
When I came to the pub, a lot of people were already drunk. It's a good way to handle the loss. No professional would say that; just take it from a person with experience. Even if it's just for one night; one night to pretend everything is okay. That one night you can pretend you're happy.
Dylan, one of my closest friends was sitting in the corner, observing it seemed.
“Hey,” I had said.
“You okay?” I just stared at him. “All right, it’s a stupid question. How are you handling things?”
“That’s another stupid question.” I smiled softly.
“I'm not good at this, am I?”
“No,” I said simply. “I don't think anyone is.”
“How did things go with John?” Dylan asked.
“You heard, eh?”
“Yeah, and I guessed you would.”
“I know you, Nick. You'd feel guilty if you messed things up because you were messed up.” I stared at my fingers, twisting them. “By the way, you wouldn't have messed things up. You can't help what you're going through.”
“Well I can help putting everyone else through it.”
“Anyone who loves you as much as we do is going through it.”
“Can't help it,” he said, putting his hands up in defence, “Stop being so loveable.” I tried to smile but it felt like a frown. Dylan reached for my chin and tilted it up. “Hey.”
The look of his eyes made me realise I wasn't acting well enough. What was the point in coming out of my hole of a bedroom, if it still made people look at me the same? Acting was the key to getting through this now. That's why I changed the subject.
“Told Michelle you like her, yet?”
His eyes narrowed, letting me know he knew my game, but he played along anyway, “Of course not.”
“Got a reason?”
“Yes.” I waited. “Not a good one.”
“Let me guess,” I pondered, “Chicken?”
“You say it like it's not a valid reason,” he said in his whiny tone.
“I'll tell you my new life mantra.”
Dylan laughed. “Since when did you have a life mantra?”
“Got to start someday,” I smiled.
“What is it?”
“Carpe Diem,” He looked confused. “Seize the day.”
“And why is that?”
“Life's too short,” I said it with such certainty that I realised why Dylan was looking at me with sad eyes. I didn't want the sad eyes, why did everyone look at me like that?
“Nick-” Dylan tried to speak.
“So, seize the day with Michelle because, well, you never know.”
I stood up from the corner and touched his arm. “Just promise me, would you?” He nodded
I walked past the drunken happiness and into the toilets. No one else was there, thankfully. I locked myself into the end cubical, sat down with my knees tucked into my arms and cried. Smiling, laughing - even talking when you feel like you can't - sucks every last bit of energy from you. Crying like this was the result. It felt as though everyday afterwards would be an uphill battle. Holding my breath so I wouldn't break; I just wanted to breathe. But every time I did – let go and breathe, I mean – I'd crawl up into a ball and cry, that's not how you get through this, is it?
Maybe I did need help.