"RUN", he screamed as I grabbed all the food I could from the grand buffet in front of me. Still gobbling, we bent until we could push ourselves under a table as we watched the two adults who suspected us leave. Quietly getting up and out of the sight of hundreds of people, we had successfully crashed a wedding.
Oh, the introductions? I was a regular teenager back then, fooling around with my best friend. I have lost practice of introducing him ever since he...
Anyway, being his partner in crime, babysitter, personal clown, 3a.m. counsellor, 4 a.m. human alarm, 5a.m. jogging partner are a few of the million things that I loved apart from being his best friend. He was all this to me too, a lot more than this.
We went to the same school which I am both glad and remorseful about.
If you think this is going to be a fairy tale, you have no idea how much I wish it was. Today, I stood in the empty corridors of our alma mater on his birthday, thinking how it all used to be; imagining us running to the canteen, completing our last-minute revisions outside the examination hall, having leg-fights and thumb-fights and chalk-fights and what not fights at our desk, talking about the most random things there could be, giving each other surprises and making memories to cherish beyond a lifetime. I remembered it all so well that I could almost see it happening all over again. As I walked to our classroom as slowly as I could, a terrifying thought that haunts me every time I go back to school crossed my mind- I wasn't only revisiting my school; I was revisiting the grave.
Five years ago, on a cold winter morning during a regular English lecture, we were engraving on our desk a beautiful quote from a poem we were being taught. That was when we heard the first shot.
Everybody panicked as the teacher stepped out to see what happened. We were advised to quietly stay in our classrooms as an evacuation route was being planned. We were now victims of a school shooting.
There was trauma, anxiety, extreme fear and crying as a common thought haunted us all; we may not survive this. He held my hand and reminded me that we were all in this together. Before we could cathart over the intensity of the situation, a janitor stepped in and showed us where to head out. In the sea of anxious students running for their lives, our hands separated. I looked back to find him but there was no room to stand and the movement of the mob kept pushing me. I was almost out when I heard the second shot. This one being exponentially more haunting than the last.
The air around me kept getting foggier and at last, the daze took over me.
Next thing I remember is feeling droplets of water on my face, a friend checking my pulse and my family running to me. The same friend said to me, “Everybody survived, except…”.The panic was still in the air when I asked, “Where is he?”
I remember how the news came in, how an officer tried to explain to me that he had been shot through a window. I remember how I didn't believe it even after I saw him... how I couldn't believe it... how I didn't want to believe that we had lost him forever. I remember crying with his parents and my parents and our friends; and I remember crying alone- every single day, every single night and the time in between. I remember when the tears dried and it still felt like my entire world was compressed to a black hole and I was at its centre.
Even after the shooter was caught, nobody could answer the fundamental question - what was all of this for? Lifetime imprisonment for one and loss of an entire life, ceasing of existence, disappearance of everything that was put into that life- all been taken by one piece of meta l, and bled out onto the floor.
Going back to your school campus is a different feeling in itself; but, for me, it meant something else on so many levels. This place was his real grave. It's the place he lost his life and I lost myself 5 years ago. It was the grave of my soul, the grave of my entire being, not only the grave of my favorite human but also the grave of humanity for me.
As I stood in my old classroom, not even trying to wipe my tears, a wind blew right across my face, leaving my eyes dry. I suddenly felt a presence; his presence. I felt a little pressure on my shoulder, like a hand tapping on it. I cannot express how his presence felt after five long years- like a gush of spring in the middle of autumn,
like a dimple on a wrinkled cheek,
like a candle in a lonely dark room,
like finding a new universe at the end of a black hole.
I felt a push which led me a step away from where I was, at the desk we used to sit together.
There, I saw our names engraved in my handwriting with a protractor. There, I saw the quote we engraved on his final day, "The grave is not the goal of life."