The Second Moment of Impact

I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to keep furniture, or an apartment for that matter, for much longer than a couple years. The reason isn't vanity; it's more of a matter of the heart. I think about how my first apartment saw so much of me just trying to figure things out. How no matter where I go, those memories are ingrained as if they were just another line in the floorboard. 

I can feel the cold draft coming through my rickety windows, the warmth radiating from my baseboard heaters to help offset the typical weather, the thrum of his beaten up jeep pulling up, the sound of the screen door opening; his nose red from the cold, his watery blue eyes always pulling me in as he unwrapped his Slytherin scarf and threw off that awful red trucker hat he got from Goodwill years ago. 

I can feel the unnatural darkness from the blinds pulled tight, sleeping on my little yellow couch, sometimes groggily pulling myself up just long enough to take a couple sips of water before passing back out. Waking up to check my phone, the horrible need I felt to see his name pop up on my phone, only to realize night had fallen, another day had gone by without a word from him. Day after day I slept on that couch, cycling through hopelessness, desperation, pure and raw sadness. That couch and solitude were my only comforts. 

I remember the joyful mornings I opened up every window in that 500 square foot apartment. My tiny kitchen filling up with smells of sizzling pepperonis and eggs, Frank Sinatra playing in the background, me swaying with the melodies, coffee cup in hand; only this time alone, blissfully ignorant and okay. 

I think it's important to understand heartbreak. It's necessary for healing to realize the temporary feeling of intense pain, that is soon replaced with a heart that is a little more guarded, a heart that now knows what it's capable of enduring. 

Even with this, my heart had no sign of what was soon to come as I sat at my little kitchen table, thinking about the recent deaths my hometown had seen. Another high school classmate had overdosed, my heart hurt because I had known him since elementary school and known how sweet of a boy he was.

For me, the grief was more for those who had known him more intimately, the group of boys he had grown up with and whose antics had brought so much laughter to our class. I scrolled through Facebook reading the memorials from his close friends, and thought about the sadness I would feel if it were someone I loved that much. My hands grabbed my phone as I typed out a text to someone who came to mind after that thought. The text read caring and loving, but with warning, because somehow, my heart knew he was in danger. 

I never hit send. 

The next morning I awoke and opened up Facebook, a morning tradition for millennials it seems. A grave status made me put it away.

"Another one? When will it stop?"

I assumed she meant another overdose but tried not to think too much into it. Running late, I hurried to throw my hair up and my Patagonia on. I parked my car with minutes to spare before class started and called my best friend to see who the status might have been about.

As she picked up I almost laughingly asked, "Who overdosed this time?"

I can still feel myself stop dead in my tracks. Unsure of whether I should run back to my car or continue walking across the street to class. I can still hear the ticking of the countdown on the crosswalk. The cold but beautiful day starkly contrasting the news coming through the phone.

"Corbin..... It was Sapp." 

I can't remember what I said after, something like he knew better, or it couldn't be Wes, was she sure? Are you sure it wasn't just a rumor? Our hometown had a way with those. 

The second moment of impact impending as I made my way across to the building, stepping inside with my heart racing, my mind in a whirlwind not sure what to think. Anger was first, I'm almost sure of it.

That quickly subsided as the sheer panic of what was happening, the draft of the text was still sitting on my phone, it should have been on his screen, how could my premonition be right? How could this be happening? 

Then, a poor, unsuspecting, sweet boy turned around to ask me how my morning was going. I'm sure he was taken aback with my red-rimmed panicked eyes as I breathed heavily and told him I just found out my best friend from high school had overdosed. 

The words left my mouth. Immediately I regretted it. It was true. Wes had overdosed. 

What happened next was quick, and as the professor was speaking I got up and ran out of the classroom, buckling and falling to my knees as I exited. I felt a hand on my arm lifting me up, and I mumbled out the words I didn't want to say again. 

There I was again, back on my couch, an unnatural darkness taking over. A shortness of breath and I screamed and cried, this time hopelessness was replaced with helplessness and rage. I couldn't understand why my heart couldn't see this coming, how was I back here again on this couch? How was I experiencing this again?

I spent the day thinking a lot about Wes and our paths. We walked the same for awhile, both living in the same neighborhood, working the same first job, both standout athletes in our sports, both people who were well liked by all and had solid crew of "popular" friends. So why did he end up dead, and I ended up here? 

I will never know the answer. I like to think I could trace it back, and while there are a couple reasons I can pick from the bunch that helped lead him down that path, it still doesn't excuse having to go home to see the face of a man I once laughed with while we tried to attempt golf cart stunts, laying in a casket, his sallow face barely recognizable. 

That day, the day I nonchalantly asked who overdosed, was my second moment of impact. It's one that I don't think will ever lessen, it will never be one that I look back on without a heavy heart. It walks with me every day. It is in my heart at all times. Sometimes it isn't as apparent, and sometimes it leaves me paralyzed, laying on my couch with tears streaming down my face and O.A.R. playing in the background. 

I've tried my best to understand why to this day I still am so impacted by losing a friend who grew distant as time went by. The only thing I've come up with is the regret I feel for not going with my heart that afternoon prior, not sending that text to him, not extending myself from my comfort to reach out to an old friend during a time that I knew would be affecting him. 

There's a lot I can't say about why this has held such a weight on my heart. I think I could have made a difference. I would never go as far to say that a text could have stopped him from overdosing. But I lose sleep at night knowing my action might have led him down a different path that night. Who's to say, but my heart hurts every day thinking about the loss of Wes. And I don't think that will ever go away.