Ali’s Story (from Wheaton Words 2014)


When we met, I was four and you were five. We bonded through our mutual confusion with life, and parted the same way. We didn’t need to meet any qualifications. We were both kindergarten girls and that was the only criterion we needed to become friends.

We spent our days on the monkey bars and our nights under matching Minnie Mouse sleeping bags and all the time you told me stories, what you dreamed about at night and what you thought teachers do in summer and the secret life of your guinea pig.

The most beautiful thing about you was your mind. You created stories for us to act out on the blacktop after school and wrote chapters of raw creativity in your spindly, sharp penmanship. You carved your own path with nothing but a 24-pack of crayola crayons and I hitchhiked on your confidence because my own reserves were empty.

You had asthma, but you ran for the cross-country team. You got headaches, but you still studied for Honors Chemistry. You felt dizzy and just stood up taller. Until one day you stood so tall you fainted.

My mother told me you were diagnosed with brain cancer and I turned around and left the room. The image of your gorgeous imagination being eaten away by a freak mutation plagued me constantly. Sometimes the random fluctuations of the universe seem terribly deliberate.

You died on November 7th of our senior year. I found out very unromantically through a suffocating barrage of Facebook posts from our schoolmates. I didn’t feel grief, only guilt. I tried to persuade myself that angels are real. I prayed not to be an atheist. I walked to the funeral home, but the flowers had already been watered by the tears of those who barely knew you when I couldn’t muster any of my own.

I selfishly grasped my copy of our elementary school yearbook. The one where you had listed your future job as an author and I had said I wanted to be an illustrator. Things could have worked out so well. But here I am in a different state attending a college where no one knows your name or your smile or the way your handwriting slanted on a piece of lined paper.

I can’t describe absence, I’d need an absence of words to describe it, negative words. And you knew the answers to questions I haven’t begun to look for because I don’t have a guide any more.

We bonded through our mutual confusion with life, and parted the same way.


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