We all have heard the sayings: “Don’t bully,” “Treat others as you want to be treated,” “Time is precious,” and “Always speak your mind.” I'd heard all of these before, but I never fully processed them until someone I loved left me too soon. I want to spread the story of my close friend so that people can learn to love each other and to speak what is on their minds.
Before I begin, I asked permission from my friend’s parents if it was okay for me to share this story. They gave me a "yes," and they felt that my friend’s story needed to be heard. Out of respect and for the sake of this story, I have changed my friend’s name and a few other names as well.
I am going to start off by saying this...I am a very shy person. I have been this way ever since I started preschool. I kept myself from the other kids, I was quiet, I did not participate in anything. The most that the teachers could get out of me was “here” when they called my name for roll call. I became a shadow in the room. I drifted away from people.
When I was a kid, I did not know why I acted like this. I just thought it was normal for me to be quiet and listen to the teacher since we were at school. When I got to grade school, I kept this same attitude. Quiet and kept to myself. To be honest, I had more drawings in my notebook and backpack than I had actual school work. Drawing was the only way for me to kind of express myself to my fellow students and teachers. I eventually made a few friends in grade school, but only one of them has still remained in contact with me.
Then came high school. My parents told me that high school was going to be way different than grade school…boy were they right. I went to a Catholic high school (since I went to a Catholic grade school), which meant uniforms, religion class, and Mass every month. We had so many rules, but what high school doesn’t?
Anyways, the summer before my freshman year, I did some heavy thinking. I was determined to make my high school career different than my grade school one. I knew that I was shy in grade school, and I did not want to be just a shadow at high school. I wanted to be somebody.
So, the first day of high school came. It was like I was walking into a whole new realm. There was so much space and so many students. I thought I was going to pass out. The first day was boring. Going to classes, meeting the teachers, doing the cliche icebreakers with my classmates, and exploring the school. The atmosphere was so different to me, and so were the people. I had a feeling that high school was going to an experience.
Let me skip ahead a little bit. It was around the time for winter midterm exams, and I had not made a lot of friends. I had my "friends" from grade school, and I made about two more friends thanks to the theatre program. I was not doing very well with my big plan to expand my comfort zone and meet new people. But at this moment, I was more focused on my grades than making friends.
It was a Friday, the last day of school before Christmas break. I had finished my exam early, and I was allowed to leave the classroom and head home. When I was at my locker, I was packing my books and notebooks to head home. I checked my phone and read a text from my mom. It said, “Almost there." I set my backpack on the ground as I went to text her back.
I was responding, “Okay. I will be out front on the–,” when an awful sound broke my concentration.
The sound of my locker slamming shut. I looked to see one of the football players, Mikey, by my locker. He looked at me with a grin that meant trouble. My heart was pounding as he leaned against the lockers. I remember he was trying to have a conversation with me. He asked the cliche questions “What are you doing for Christmas?” and “How is everything?” like he was trying to be nice to me.
Even though I was shy, I was not dumb. I knew his game. He and his buddies were at our one-act plays in November in the front row, trying to make us laugh and eating all of the concessions without paying for them. I do not know how they got away with it, but that’s not important.
He kept trying to "talk" with me, but I just wanted to leave and go home. I went to grab my backpack, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me to him. He grabbed my shirt and looked into my eyes. I felt nothing but fear. I was frozen in this moment. The words he said to me next, still haunt me to this day. He said to me, “What if you just never came back after Christmas break?”
I did not know what to do. I was scared. I was angry. I was frozen. I did not move as his grip became tighter, and I was just waiting for him to release his grip and punch me in the face. Then, I felt him suddenly release me. Everything seemed like a blur to me until I saw a hand reaching out to me.
I grabbed the hand, and it led to a girl. She introduced herself as Emmy and told me that she sat across the room from me in math class. I knew that. I saw her every day, and we made semi-eye contact with each other every now and then. She handed me my backpack and walked with me to the front of the school. I could see my mom’s car as Emmy turned to me and handed me a piece of paper. She told me it was her number and that she thought I was pretty cool and that we should talk more.
I was at a loss for words. Some random classmate came up to me and gave me her number and said I was cool. No one had ever said that to me before. I can tell you that it was the first time I genuinely felt happy.
So, Emmy and I started to talk a few hours later. It started out with little text conversations, then phone calls and FaceTiming each other. Then, we met each other in between classes and sat outside after school and talked. We even did the spring musical together. For the first time, I felt like I had a friend. And I realized that Emmy was the first person I never became shy with. There was something about her that just made me feel strong and more like myself. And this caused me to gain a few more friends as well. Emmy opened me up, and all because she helped me that one day.
By sophomore year, Emmy and I had been friends for over a year. It was around springtime, and the spring musical rehearsals had just started. Emmy had the lead role, and it made me proud of her since she was a sophomore and she nailed the lead role.
Anyways, after one of the rehearsals, Emmy stopped me and handed me a big envelope. She smiled and told me to open it. Inside was a picture of me and her on our one-year friendship anniversary. We had decided to go to the Festival of Lights, and her mom took our picture underneath the lights.
It was a very special moment that I had with Emmy, and I never wanted to forget it. I thanked her with a hug, but she told me to turn it around. On the back in black Sharpie were the words, “You Will Always Have Me.” I smiled bigger this time and hugged her even tighter. I was so blessed to have a friend like Emmy in my life, and I could tell that we made each other happy.
After a long day of rehearsals, everyone was exhausted when we were let out of the theatre. Emmy told me that we should hang out since we did not have school the next day. I quickly agreed, and she drove me to her house since I could still not drive at the time. When we got there, we sat on her couch and talked about the musical, school, possible colleges we wanted to go to, and other topics. Later we started to watch a movie since we were tired and all talked out.
About halfway through the movie, Emmy paused it and hugged me. I was caught off-guard by this, but I hugged her back. She said to me in the sweetest voice, “Thank you for everything. You’re the best friend I always wanted.” I told her that I felt the same way. We kept hugging for who knows how long. But she broke the hug and told me that she needed to go upstairs. I watched her go to the stairs, and she stopped. I was confused as to why she stopped. When I looked at her, I noticed she was wiping a tear away. I wanted to say something, but my stupid mind told me not to. Next thing I knew, I heard her door silently shut.
Time passed as I sat on the couch, waiting for Emmy to come back. It was about 10:15, and she still had not come out of her room. I walked up the stairs and came to her door. I knocked and asked if she was okay. I got no response, which I thought was strange. I knocked again and asked if everything was alright. The next thing I did is still so fresh in my mind.
I opened the door and saw Emmy, motionless. I ran to her and saw blood all over her arm. Her eyes were open, but they were empty. I screamed her name to see if she would wake up...but she didn’t. She never did. I held her close to her as I cried and cried. I lost my friend. My best friend. I lost her, and I could never get her back. It was the first time I had not felt like a shadow, but I felt something worse. I felt broken. Broken was all I felt. I lost my rock, my strength...my friend.
I’m not going to lie to you: life was hard. Seeing Emmy’s family struggle and fall into the darkness. It was hard for me to see this because her family was the most kind and warm-hearted family I had ever met. Emmy was like that. She helped me and others be their true selves, but she wasn’t there anymore with her bright light. The school was dim and dark without her. It was dark for everyone.
When I reached out to Emmy’s parents, they told me that they asked the school not to mention anything about her death, out of respect for her. If anybody asked about Emmy, the staff would say that the family moved and had to go to another school. The school asked me not to saying anything about Emmy, even though at the time I had no idea that Emmy’s parents spoke to the school before me.
Time passed, and everyone seemed to forget about Emmy. But not me. I fell back into the shadows and kept myself away from people. I did not want anyone else to have to deal with me because I was a burden. I could not help my friend. She helped me, but I did not help her. She was always so happy, and I never noticed that she was hurting inside. For the longest time, I felt responsible for her death because I could not help her bring her true self out. I became engulfed in the darkness of my mind and lived in that darkness.
It was junior year, around the time of the spring musical. We were doing "Into the Woods," and I had the role of Jack. I was excited because I was getting to play one of my dream roles. I felt accomplished as an actor with this achievement. I made a few friends during rehearsals, which provided some light in my life, but it wasn’t the same without Emmy there.
Anyways, our big day of rehearsal for "Into the Woods" had ended, and I was in the changing room, getting out of my costume. The last boy had left the room, and I was alone, just like always. I started to hang my costume up on the rack when I heard the changing room door open. I assumed that someone had forgotten something. I finished putting my costume away when I turned around and felt a sharp pain in my right cheek. Next thing I knew I was on the floor. I looked up to see Mikey, laughing.
He looked down at me continuing to laugh. I tried to get up, but he kicked me in the stomach to pin me down. His hand grabbed me by the hair, yanked me up and punched me in the stomach. He grinned and said to me, “Emmy can’t save your ass now.”
It seemed like this was out of my worst nightmares. All I felt was the pain from my body as I tried to cry for help, but no sound came out. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor with Mikey walking out of the room. I felt blood on my face and just laid on the floor and cried. I was alone. I had shattered more. I felt nothing. No worth. I felt like a vase just waiting to break. I had nobody, even though Emmy told me that I will always have her. Well, I didn’t have her there. She was gone. She was on the ground, and I couldn’t reach for her because she was too far gone.
Mikey got in trouble, but I don’t want to get into that because it’s not important. I have already forgiven him. I have never told my parents this story because I was scared to tell them anything about Emmy or Mikey. I know they would be understanding, but this was so rough on me that I found no need to tell them or anyone.
The reason I told this story is that I wanted to spread Emmy’s story and show how she helped shape me into the person I am today. Emmy was an amazing person who taught me so much about friendship and being there for people.
I want to be there for people, whether they need to have a little chat, a hug, a laugh, or just a smile. I challenge you to tell people how special they are to you because you never know when they might slip away. The people that you meet and keep in your lives are in there for a reason. You all are in my life for a reason, and we are in each other’s lives for a reason. You all have a purpose in someone’s life. You may think that, but you do. You are a light to one person or an entire group of people. Don’t let your light go out because it is helping someone even if you don’t realize it yet. I never want Emmy’s light go out, which is why I live with the words that she gave me.
Be there for your friends. Talk to them and love them with all of your heart. I want Emmy’s story to show that people love us for who we are. We may not see it, but there are people in our lives who hold a special place in our hearts. Be there for your friends and family, because if they know you care about them, it’ll make their world seem brighter than before.