Death is a shock of ice water to the senses, both physical and metaphysical, and I remember the exact second I experienced it for the first time.
We were all just kids in ninth grade, innocent and wild, we didn’t think about what our words or actions did to others or to ourselves. We were all just kids, we had time to learn and to grow and mess up.
We were kids when we were reminded with unshakable certainty how real and looming death can be. It was summer. The smell of sunblock and the sticky-hard feeling of chlorine clung to my hair as I routinely checked social media, idly sending messages to my closest friend as I scrolled.
The first status was a mistake, the second was a joke, and the third was a frantic hot wave of please please let it be a cruel prank. I remember the mocking thump thump thump of a family pool party carrying on outside, a heartbeat of existing and existing and existing while I felt everything crumbling down around me.
Jordan was anything but bleak. I still maintain that he was the kindest, happiest person I’d ever met. He was goofy, sure, and he had a few annoying tendencies as all puberty-ridden teenagers do, but he was so good. I remember thinking a continuous strain of why him why him why him because it never made sense, it never really clicked, why he would take his own life.
I have suffered from depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and have recently been put on SSRIs, which is an anti-depressant. Basically, this interjection is to say that I understand what it feels like to suffer from these diseases, and I remember weeping when I found out like I had never cried before because what if he had felt like this? How could I have not known? I could have helped him and I was such a bad friend and it’s my fault-
I know now that the human psyche is an untamable beast. If he was suffering and he never reached out, I can’t be held responsible for the death of a peer. That isn’t fair to him or myself. The human mind is always changing, a flex of chemicals and pheromones, and we can never really know what he (or anyone in this situation) was experiencing.
I’ve had a little while to heal from his death but the wound will always feel so fresh when I look at his picture and recognize again how young we were, how young he was, and how much we had in store for us. It’s so sad to think that he could only find one solution to his problem. It’s so sad to remember him, bright-eyed, telling me about the speed boat he wants to buy after college. It’s so sad thinking we were young enough to have those kinds of plans for after college.
My last memory of Jordan was one that I will treasure for years to come. I was walking to French class, dragging my feet through the concession area, and I heard him calling my name, all green eyes and puppy excitement. He slung his arm over my shoulders and leaned on me, leading the way to my class and the opposite of his own. We chattered on about the summer and how we hoped to have classes together again, and his cheeks were high and pink and his grin was as sharp as ever and his eyes danced to a melody he held upon his lips. And then we said goodbye, and I told him I would miss him, and he hugged me so tight, so tight, and the trotted off, already lapsing into a new conversation.
I feel so guilty when I think about college and the future, thinking about how much he deserved to have this ahead of him, how he among all of us should have worn a cap and gown and accepted his diploma, how he should have been able to apply for college and get his degree, have the chance to start a family and a career. It’s not fair that I get all of these things and he just doesn’t.
However, I know that Jordan wouldn’t want me to hold myself back by looking into the past. Instead, he would want me, and all of my class, to embrace our future, to take every chance we get at happiness. If for nothing else, for those who don’t get that chance.
Four years ago on the ninth of July, a young, scared boy took his own life and shook the class of his peers. Today, on the tenth of July, I am writing, teary-eyed, about a boy I almost didn’t know, and the lessons he taught me. I will always remember him as he was, the bubbly, joking boy that confiscated my comic book during science class and gushed about it in the hallway afterwards.
Memories will never replace the person, and I hope that I will do him and every person I’ve lost in the past proud by striving forward to make all of the little time I have of this life.