I talk to her in the girls’ bathroom Friday afternoon. “Hi,” I say. “Hi,” she answers. A quick smile, and she is gone. We see each other every day, between fifth and sixth period, both on our way to other places.
My mom walks into my room Saturday morning. Sits down on my bed. She has just gotten off the phone.
“Honey, I have to tell you something. It’s about S.”
I look at her. She is upset, unsure how to proceed.
“She died last night.”
There. Like an immeasurable weight, sinking down on me. I sink to the floor, sit Indian style, stare at my mom, then the carpet. I feel tears in my eyes. I do not know S that well. We have grown apart since we were in gymnastics class together years ago. Half a lifetime ago. Half her lifetime. My mom is talking.
“They think she had meningitis.”
Now I am scared. I saw her yesterday. I immediately turn selfish, begin thinking of antibiotics and prevention and god I would rather die than go through testing for that. Really would rather die.
“They’re doing tests now, they should know something by Monday.”
I am not rational. I am uncomfortable in my own skin. Afraid. I imagine her contorted, turning blue-black on the bed, her mother helpless to do anything. I am terrified.
By the time they have the funeral, we know it was not meningitis. We are not talking about it. We all, the whole school it seems like, go to the church and sing hymns as the casket is wheeled in and Mass is said. I am crying. When it is over, I go back to the school, because it is winter break and we are in final rehearsals for “Grease.” We are dancing and singing on stage — “we go together, like rama-lama-lama-kadiggity-ding-de-dong” — and thinking of her, cold, dead, buried in the ground.
A few days later, I turn 16.