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Memories and Falling Leaves
“The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said, and never explained.” (Anonymous)
I can remember that day so vividly that it makes the hair on my neck rise when I think of it. I remember my friend Sydney’s voice talking through the phone. I was distracted by something outside, it was a single leaf on a tree. It would not fall, despite the wind and rain. It was April, and it amazed me to see it precariously twisting and dancing from the branch it refused to let go of. How did it endure the long and harsh winter months? I remember the door I was leaning against across from the guidance office in my high school, down the stairs. I can still see myself surrounded by photos with smiling faces of previous principals lining the walls. I remember Syd going on about my close friend Tasha, saying she had handed her important belongings and acted as if she was saying goodbye. I told her I had received a letter from Tasha and I had talked to her about it and asked her to please not resort to suicide. I so was assured it was just another dramatic game she was playing at. I had become immune to the worries she tried to impose on me from many occurrences before. Syd said something, but I couldn’t hear her because the leaf had fallen. It might not have been that I didn’t hear her, because I knew she had spoken. I think maybe it was more that I did not process the words. I could not connect the letters to form words to form their meaning in my head. I could only stare at the leaf as it floated to the ground. I remember Syd’s voice, telling me Tasha hung herself, and I can still hear the way her voice cracked. I remember taking the phone away from my face and hearing her ask if I was still on the line, but I was not listening; I couldn’t take my eyes away from this leaf. I remember my heart sinking, the blood draining from my face and my throat closing. I remember holding my breath and hearing my heart beating quicker and louder, trying to supply my body with the oxygen that I refused to let back in. The wind outside actually howled through the branches of the trees. I had never and have never since heard that howling - Until Tuesday, last week.
I was informed that another friend by the name Esma, though not as close to me as Tasha was, had died by her own hands. It was a hard day, mixed with grief for her and memories resurfacing that had been buried deep for years. Esma was like Tasha in a lot of ways. She was loving, friendly, passionate and extreme in a lot of the things she did. They both had brown eyes, dark hair, red lips and tanned skin. They both had secrets and a sadness that haunted them day in and day out, and hid it well to everyday people. I cried a lot the day I found out about Esma, even more than when Tasha died. It felt like I was grieving for both of them. The atmosphere in the school was sickening and I wanted to get out. The walls, the floor, and the lockers all made me increasingly nauseous.
So, I left school early and I walked home, only to notice how many leaves were falling all around me wherever I went. You know that day in Fall, the first real falling of leaves? It’s usually such a beautiful sight of raining bright oranges, yellows and reds. This time, it felt different. It even looked different. With every leaf I saw still holding on to its maker, I saw Tasha tying a knot to a branch over a creek. I saw Esma sobbing, hanging from the edge of her balcony as she did. I saw her hands and Tasha’s feet slipping or letting go but I’m still never quite sure. As each leaf suddenly moved in a downwards motion, by a gust of wind or some other unearthly cause, it was Esma falling from the 14th floor of her apartment building. It was Tasha dropping attached to a suddenly taught rope. These seem like things of nightmares, and they are. However, they are not the kind you can wake up from.
This morning I saw the sun. Ever since Esma went, over a week ago, I hadn’t seen blue sky once. It had only rained. Recently, Fall has felt like the Spring of death. Colour and life are drained from the landscape around me instead of entering it. The season has not helped me cope with death, to say the least. I try not to think about my lost friends, but I feel their pain. I carry it with me now without them and it drags me under the surface, though sometimes I feel so hollow I could simply float. The stages of grief that people claim we all go through are false because there are no steps people take. There is no allotted time for denial, anger, depression or acceptance, at least not for me. I go from uncertainty to understanding to sheer emptiness.
I have tried to draw something from my experiences with suicide. It’s hard to, it feels like there are only negative conclusions to every train of thought. I want to grow from it, learn from it, take something meaningful from it. Death is a necessary end, and though many people may not realize it (or want to realize it), life is only good because death ends it. But what meaning is there to be found in suicide? It only amounts to a horrible waste of a life. Life which lit up beautiful people, who were alive and breathing with glints of light reflected in their dark eyes. Their faces held expressions, their words affected the people around them. They made their mark on people every day, even if they could not see that. I am so sorry to see them go. They are now degraded to a body, a broken organic machine that lies so still that you can tell they are not sleeping. It’s so hard to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Esma was getting help and hated every moment of it. Tasha had tried to leave before and would have again. If only they could come back and let us tell them what they meant to us before they really left. I tried to help them, especially Tasha. And now, I try to convince myself that these leaves, my dear friends, were going to fall despite any efforts I made to catch them.