I looked up from my math book as Alicia boarded the school bus and waved at me. I examined her outfit. She was decked out in purple high-heeled boots that reached her knees and a glittering green dress, complete with a black denim jacket. I waved back, stifling a laugh. Alicia always wore the most ridiculous outfits. Looking down at my plain white blouse, pleated grey skirt, and shiny black Mary Jane flats, I felt boring. Alicia plunked down in the seat next to me, interrupting my thoughts. She set her rainbow-striped backpack on her lap and beamed at me brightly.
“Hey, Deb! What’s going on?” she greeted me.
“Not much. Just studying for the test.” I replied.
“Oh, no. Is that today?” asked Alicia worriedly.
“It’s on Friday. I’m just getting a head start.” I explained.
“Oh, phew! You had me worried there for a moment.” Alicia said as she wiped an imaginary bead of sweat from her forehead.
Alicia reached into her backpack and pulled out a box of chocolates. She opened the box, popped a truffle into her mouth, and smiled even wider. She held the box out to me expectantly.
“Want one?” she prompted.
“Nah, I’m okay. I had a big breakfast.” I replied.
It was true. That morning I had guzzled blueberry pancakes and maple syrup like there was no tomorrow. And in a way, there wasn’t. But now here I am, lying in a hospital bed and I only have one regret. And it haunts me. I should have taken one of those chocolates. It would have been my last earthly pleasure.
As nutrients rush into my veins through tubes, I think about food. I think about those pancakes and those chocolates. I think about soup and pizza and pasta and burgers. I think about fruit and bread and cheese and pie. I think about that sponge cake my mother used to make. How I miss that sponge cake. I miss the way it felt as it melted in my mouth and crumbled on my tongue.
I miss all the little things that I will never experience again. I miss taking showers and drawing pictures and driving my dad’s truck. I even miss doing homework. I always hated it, but I could always do it. Now I can’t do anything. I feel so worthless, so inadequate. I really miss my life. I would give anything to have it back, but that’s just not an option anymore.
My only option now is to lie here in constant pain and stare fixedly at the ceiling. I notice a smudge on the ceiling that vaguely resembles a circle. The thought comforts me. I have always been fascinated by circles. They seem so strangely mysterious. They go on for all eternity. They have no clear beginning or end. They appear to be full of secrets that will forever remain undiscovered.
I like that. I like the concept of forever. In a world that some of us pretend to understand, I cling desperately to the idea of eternal mystery. I have always longed to be mysterious, too. To be deep. Complex. I have longed to stand for something, but I’ve never know what.
Now I know. I want to stand for independence; creativity; originality. I want to go out and experience the world the way Alicia did. I want to seize every moment with both hands, to live every day like the last, and to live my dreams. I want to be the best person I can be! But I will never get that chance.
I have never wanted so badly in all of my life to get a second chance. In fact, I’m still waiting for it. I’m not sure why. It’s been a long time: too long. Maybe it’s been days. It could have been weeks or months, maybe even years. The hours blur together in a thousand shades of grey. Every moment is the same. What happens around me is irrelevant. I am trapped inside my own head, but at the same time, I am absorbing the world around me like never before. If only I could share this beautiful world with Alicia once again.
I wonder what Alicia is doing right now. I wonder if Alicia even survived the crash. I guess I just assumed she did. But then again, she never came to visit me. Maybe I’m forgettable. I’ve always thought of myself as just another plain face in an infinite crowd. Or maybe she really is dead. I consider the possibility for what seems like hours before hearing a familiar voice. It sounds like Alicia. Could it be? I feel my bed sink beneath me. I feel a hand touch my face. Another face comes into view. It’s Alicia’s face.
“Deb, I’m sorry. I should have come sooner,” she whispers.
“You’re here now,’” I want to remind her, “And I’m grateful for that.”
“I know you’re in there somewhere,” she continues.
“I am!” I want to shout.
“So if you can hear me, you should know that I . . . I’m going to miss you when you’re gone.” Alicia chokes out as a single tear falls down her cheek.
It feels as if I’m gone already, but at the same time I am in an inescapable limbo. I wonder what she means. I want so badly to ask her.
“I wish it didn’t have to be like this, but they couldn’t stand to see you this way. Please don’t hate me,” she says.
“I could never hate you. Never,” I want to tell her.
“I tried. I tried to stop them. Really, I did.” she says softly.
I could not be more confused. Who did she try to stop and from what?
“They signed yesterday. They aren’t coming to see you. I think they feel guilty. It’s not personal or anything,” she says.
At this point, the tears are streaming down her face. She takes my hand in hers gently. We stay there for a moment. Then I hear footsteps. The footsteps are coming in my direction. What’s happening?
“Goodbye, Deb,” whispers Alicia.
I begin filling in the blanks. My parents must have signed some sort of release. They’re going to pull the plug on the machine that’s keeping me alive. In a strange way, I am almost glad. This world has nothing left for me anymore. I only wish I could say goodbye.