~I would like to dedicate this piece to best friends everywhere.
When you count your blessings, count your friends twice~
Each step I take makes a crunching sound as dried up yellow and orange leaves crumble under my feet. The sun is out today, but the chilly weather lingers. The bitter wind lashes around me. I pull my blue pea coat tighter around me as I make my way across the gravestones, one hand holding the bundle of white roses closer to me, the other hanging on the strap of my knapsack.
I’ve memorized the path, even though I only came here once before, for the funeral; go over the gate, past 7 rows, take a left, behind the Willow tree, right under the statue of the prima ballerina. The ballerina had her arms in an arc above her head with her legs spread apart like she was about to spring in action any second now. I follow the path counting the birds that glide across the sunny September sky.
I reach twenty one before I see it. The very thing I’ve been trying to avoid for the past three years staring right at me; Claw’s grave.
September 17, 1993 – March 18, 2011
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
I could feel my eyes welling up with tears; I thought I was prepared, ready even. I thought I’d moved on. But standing right here, in front of her grave, I realized how wrong I’ve been. You can never truly move on, there will always be a part of you that will ache when something or someone reminds you of what you’ve lost, and how you can never get it back. Over time, the pain will numb that part of you, making you believe you moved on.
I turn around and inhale sharply, holding in my breath and count to ten then exhale. I repeat this a few times to calm my nerves. This was a something I learned at my Public Speaking class at the university. With a final sigh, I turn to Claw’s final resting place.
The headstone wasn’t worn as much as you would expect and some vines started to crawl their way on it. I smile slightly; she always did love gardening. I never wiped my tears, for I had a feeling there was more to come. I plopped down opposite her grave, facing the headstone.
I lightly touched my necklace. It was golden with two circles ensnaring each other. It was her final gift to me. I kept fidgeting with the necklace as I did what I’ve been waiting to do for a while now.
“Hey Claw; I know it’s been long, too long actually. But as you used to say “Good counsel never comes too late” I chuckled as I remembered how she used that line on countless teachers every day. Even though she owns several watches, she even has a collection! She never wore them, much less looked at them.
“I didn’t originally plan on coming, but when I got home last week I sort of dug out our old ‘time Capsule.’ I know” I said holding my palms up defensively as if she could see. “I know we were supposed to wait till the year 2100 but my mind kept going back to that summer that we buried it in. As I was looking through it I was shocked to find ‘Claw’s Book of Wisdom’ among the other things. I never thought you’d leave that in there.”
I remember how we used to hang out, me flipping through fashion magazines or watching whatever TV show I was obsessing over that month and she would read volumes or surf the Internet and in the process she’d fill up her notebook and mind with famous quotations about life, friendship, philosophy, and just about any topic you can think of. She’d go through these phases, obsessing over a certain philosopher or an author or poet, all the time. One time it was Voltaire, the next it was Shakespeare and before you knew it, it was Robert Frost. Claw used to literally force a quote in each conversation she had. I remember this one time we had a fight, I don’t even remember what it was about, something trivial, whenever I said something her counterattacks were all quotations, I don’t even think she was even aware of it.
I took out her moleskine notebook from my knapsack. The brown and beige cover was frayed but still intact, it had this outlandish design on it as if you are spying on a bird hidden in the branches of a tree.
The tears have stopped by now and a nostalgic smile made its way on my face as I stared at the familiar cursive script. “You know, your handwriting made me constantly feel as if I was borrowing the notes of an old English professor, made me feel as if I was at Hogwarts” I laugh as I flipped the pages, looking for a specific one.
“And here we are” I mumbled when I found the page, the page written in red not blue, like the rest of the book, the page that had my name, Bethany Williams, written in the margin.
“You only wrote a single line on that page. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I read that line over a thousand times before, but only last night did it make sense. I came here today Claw to say what I never got to say, what I’d always assumed you knew. That’s something we, people, do a lot don’t we? Assume the other person knows what we want to say so we don’t bother saying it.” I shake my head.
“I got accepted into that Ivy League college we both wanted to go to. I’m proud to say I didn’t give up on our dream; I’m in my third year of Journalism school now and honestly it’s been like a dream, simply amazing, you would have loved it.”
“I am slowly crossing things off of my bucket list, like getting a Henna tattoo; I got one of a butterfly on my forearm the other day. I understood its allure in the Arab World, it were as if my arms were living masterpieces. I did an in-depth interview on the most scandalous rumor of the century, or at least that’s what I called it in that interview, apparently the principle of our old high school ‘borrowed’ money from the student council’s funds to pay for his new Lamborghini. And I went back in time with your help; our time capsule really does work.”
“Claudia I came here to tell you — to thank you actually — without your support I don’t think I would have made it where I am now. After your death I shut myself from the rest of the world. I lost my best friend, my sister and guardian angel, how was I going to make it in this world?” the tears decided it was time for another appearance, this time I had to blow my nose as well.
“One day, as I was going through my phone I was looking for our old conversations, I needed something real, something to prove that you were once with me. One of your texts stood out. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” the same thing on your tombstone and in your notebook. I almost forgot how you liked to send me a quote-a-day instead of good morning texts like everyone else.” I let the tears run wild, cascading on my cheeks then falling like raindrops on the ground, the frail, nostalgic smile was still etched on my face.
“I’ll have you know that text, that one quote, changed my life forever. It made me realize that you wouldn’t have wanted this for me. I could cry enough tears to flood the banks of a river, but that still would not change a thing.”
“You became my motivation; I kept going because I knew you believed in me, you always have, even when all the odds were against us. You were my lighthouse in a moonless night, you guided me to safety.”
“But most of all you were my hero because you saved me and believed in me. You pushed me to be the better me I could be. To me you’re only dead on paper, you’re still very alive and a big role in my life. You showed me that moving on in not about never looking back. It’s taking a glance at yesterday and seeing how much you’ve grown since then.” With that done I laid down the bouquet of roses on her grave then started my walk to the gates.
I only visited Claudia’s body today, her spirit never left me…..
“The ones that love us never really leave us. You can always find them in here <3” ― J.K. Rowling
Author: Latifa AlGhaferi