Flowers don’t always mean good things.
Especially if they’re not going home with anyone later.
As I sit, facing the mountain of flower arrangements, I’m numb. Lilies, roses, orchids. Hydrangeas. All flowers of loss.
I’ve lost something that can’t be replaced with flowers.
I knot my thumbs together in my lap as I stare into one of the roses. My mind is racing, but empty. Motionless but dying. I’m so confused by my current condition that I do nothing but stare.
My tie is strangling me. My shoes – new and finely polished – are too tight. I hate my black suit so much. If it were up to me, I’d have come in jeans and sneakers. It would carry less meaning, less weight.
But this guy deserves everything I can give him, so I can sacrifice my discomfort in his honor.
The door beside the bouquets is open, allowing in a cool breeze into the warm community center. The draping trees outside rustle their branches to the beat of the geese squawking. In between the shifting green glows warm yellow from the high sun.
It’s a beautiful day. A beautiful Fourth of July.
People talk quietly in the reception hall, in hushed, respectful voices. I can hear small fractions of words from my place at the entry.
“Who was he?” “I saw the obituary in the newspaper…” “It’s so shameful, what his father did…”
I close my eyes and lean my head against the wall behind me. A deep sigh escapes my innermost chest.
I’m so tired…
A soft knock on the doorframe to the hall has me awake and conscious. I turn my head and see Father Leo in the doorway, his usual shy face laced with concern. I don’t know what most priests are like, but this one makes me comfortable. Like my time is worth his.
“Do you need anything, Levi?” he asks. His voice is deep compared to his face and small stature.
It takes a few moments to process what came out of his mouth. Everything is in a fog. I can’t seem to hear everything in full. Maybe I don’t want to. I want my head to be quiet so I can stare at the flowers.
I shake my head and look down at my thumbs. “No,” I mutter, too halfheartedly. “No, I’m fine.”
I’m not fine.
Father Leo nods slowly, his brow furrowing towards the floor. He chews his lip thoughtfully. “Tell me what you need, Levi, if ever you need it. Don’t suffer in silence, please. That’s where despair creeps in.”
I swallow, but the salty lump in my throat is so hard that I cough.
“Why does everyone say that?” I sigh, turning my attention back to the flowers. One wreath has a satin banner through it: With deepest sympathies. Condolences for your loss. The list goes on.
I don’t know what I need. I don’t know how to suffer. I don’t know how to mourn.
My best friend is dead.
No, he didn’t die. He’s still alive. I’m gonna go home in a few hours, maybe wake up from a dream – a nightmare, more like – and he’ll be waiting for me. We’ll go down to the beach again, or perhaps we’ll be in the back of my pickup, woken by the sun rising over the Rockies. He’ll be there to tell me everything’s okay, and that it’s all in my head.
He had always needed me. Now I need him so much.
I need him to be real again.
Father Leo sighs and crouches beside me. “I’ll never know what he was like for myself,” he says sadly, “but he’ll live on through you, Levi. His story will be told through you. That’s the way to keep him alive and to end the suffering. By not being silent.” He pats my shoulder and smiles, but it’s the grim, sort of bittersweet kind. “Do him a favor by not letting him die.”
I turn away. Father Leo seems to have the right words when I need them; but I’m not going to just believe it’s going to be that easy.
Joshua Kang had gone unknown by the world. Who would care about a small, shy sixteen-year-old, whose life was taken from him too quickly? Who will listen to me, a nobody from a nobody town of a lineage of nobodies?
Even if I wasn’t silent, I would go unheard.
The priest sighs, and I reluctantly meet his eyes again. I hear the sadness in him, and I guess the best thing I can do is give him my time.
“I came to ask you a favor,” he says.
Who is he to be asking favors in this moment? I look at him with horror in my expression.
Father Leo takes a seat in the fold-up chair next to me. He laces his fingers, places them in his lap, then gives me another one of those sad but sweet sort of grins.
“Tell me about Joshua Kang,” he whispers. “Tell me everything about him. Tell me of his victories, his shortcomings, and his character. Weave the story of your friendship and tell it to me.”
I’m caught in a pause. I’m still processing his first sentence, still letting it sit in my head. No one has ever been so curious about anything, whether it was me or my friend. Not only was I put on the spot, I now wondered how I could do it.
His memory is crystal clear, and I remember every ounce of my time with him. It just took talking.
I breathe in, pause yet again, then glance at the priest.
“We were those friends… who never knew just how we met.”
It's been a while, Apricot Pie! I've had so much going on that I haven't had much time to write a continuous document, but I've had this idea for a reaaaalllly long time and I thought it was time to show a finished prologue! Old Things Die has been a backburner sort of project for when I'm experiencing writer's block with my novel (that I'm working so hard on, but also not) and I just need to stretch my creative muscles. It's a story that is highly experimental for me, so I hope you enjoy whatever sporadic updates I make on it. I hope to have the first chapter done soon, maybe in a few weeks? Depends on my school schedule, really. School hurts.