The nagging guilt in the back of my 11 year old head after the incredibly shocking death of the girl in my street never really settled. After her funeral, I felt guilty, a year later I still felt guilty. As time went on the grim reaper didn’t come back and take any of my family, but as they grew older I was getting more and more concerned about that. I was (and still am) scared that everything will happen at once and I will be unable to cope with the guilt or sadness that comes with that.
And so it wasn’t until I was 16 that I felt the touch of the grim reaper again. I have told this story briefly in my first piece. It was a slow, boring day at school. I didn’t enjoy school, I didn’t feel like I was learning anything and that’s sad. School for me was nothing more than a prison. I hated it. I didn’t really do very well at school, I didn’t know I had Aspergers at this point, so I guess that was a big negative towards my learning. One of the lessons I did enjoy was maths. I wasn’t bad at maths but I wasn’t great, although saying that I think I was really one of the better class members in terms of maths knowledge. I was in the middle group for maths, the average students. What I liked about maths was that I could get away with doing pretty much zero work and talking to my friends. There were 6 of us that sat on 3 tables in front of each other, we eventually re-arranged and became a group of 4 removing 2 of the more “boring” people out of the group. We called ourselves the “Maths Crew” it was an affectionate term for a group of people who generally only spend time together in maths lessons. We had maths lessons 4 times a week, so those 4 hours were basically spent with us laughing and joking and doing little work. We were in our final year of school, about to take our GCSE exams, I should have taken school more seriously but I just wanted to be a clown. I used to write poetry. It was so very emotional and strange. I threw the poems away because I was embarrassed by them, a friend would return them to me a few months later, but that isn’t really relevant.
To explain my mental state would be impossible, I was dating my first real boyfriend, he was older than me. I felt mature, I felt invincible, I felt like I was an adult. I was far from that. But I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t really understand why. I wasn’t like everybody else, I liked cartoons and comics. Not make up and alcohol. My boyfriend and I would spend hours in toyshops shooting each other with plastic guns, in fact at one point the manager of the toy shop in the town centre used to talk to have real deep conversations with us about his children. It was so weird. I was desperately holding on to my childhood because I was scared of being an adult, because I thought being an adult meant leaving my childhood behind.
During a science revision class, a girl who sat behind the “maths crew” came to the classroom with a member of the maths crew. She asked to talk to us. Our science teacher let us go she told us that a girl had died, the 4th member of the maths crew had died, she was 16. I chose not to believe it. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t think it was real. I went to maths after the revision class. The minute I knew it was real was when I entered my maths classroom. The third member of the maths crew who I had just been in a revision class with was not there. Just me and the second member. We talked for pretty much the whole lesson, hushed voices trying to keep a secret we weren’t sure was true. For the first time my maths teacher had not told me to turn around. We knew this wasn’t right. Suddenly a girl from across the room shouted at us “oi, is she dead?” we ignored her and carried on doing nothing. They began wildly speculating about what had happened. It was a terrifying place to be in, the bell rang and we went to our last lessons of the day. I was struggling by this point, not because I wanted to cry because I still didn’t feel I could. But because I needed to tell someone, I needed to talk about it and I had no one to talk to. Suddenly we were called to the school hall for a hasty assembly. My whole year was present.
The minute we entered the hall I began to shake, I knew what was coming. When our head teacher announced the death of my friend I continued to shake. For some reason the guns and roses song Yesterday began playing in my head. I had seen the girl the day before. I still wasn’t crying. People around me were crying and screaming. It was horrible. We all left and I don’t remember what happened next, maybe we went to class, maybe we were allowed to leave early. I don’t know. I walked home (which used to take me 10 minutes) I got through the front door and my mum asked me what was wrong. I told her my friend died and I finally broke down. She hugged me briefly and that is the only time I ever remember my mum hugging me. I stopped crying as soon as I started. I had plans to meet my boyfriend that evening, so I got changed and left to meet him.
I hadn’t text my boyfriend since it had happened, which was strange. We kept in almost constant contact at this point in our relationship. When I met him, he asked if I was ok, I told him what happened and he looked like he was going to cry, he had never met the girl. He hugged me. I was still confused and numb.
Her funeral was the biggest I had ever seen, there were people standing, people sitting the church was filled. I cried at this point. I don’t remember what happened next, I know I didn’t go to the crematorium after the church ceremony. I think I met my boyfriend. Everyone kept saying how sad it all was. But again, I felt guilty. We had big plans to meet up and drink coffee (like grown ups) and to hang out with each other during the summer holidays before we went back to 6form. But those plans had obviously been shattered.
I felt guilty at this point because I felt like I hadn’t been a good friend, I felt like I had been a let down to her and to all of my other friends. My boyfriend told me I couldn’t have predicted what would happen and that if we knew when people were going to die we would live our lives only for others and not ourselves. The was not my point. She was 16, that was no age to die.
As time has gone on my guilt has changed, I feel guilty now that I haven’t visited her grave more than once. She has been dead almost 10 years now, that terrifies me. Who knows if we would still be friends if she was alive, I like to think we would. But, my feelings of guilt exaggerated or not because I can’t be a good friend to her anymore are still here. Am I a good friend to anyone? I’m not sure I am. There are not many people who know the real me. The side of me that is truly terrified of hurting anyone, the me that just wants to make people happy. The me that feels bad that I can’t make everyone better. I couldn’t make her better, I’m not sure I really was even a particularly great friend to her. I was too caught up in my self pity that I wasn’t a good friend to anyone at this point in my life. I can never change that, I can never apologise for that. But, I can make it up with the friends I have left from this time.
The Elephant in the Room