Fifteen

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Dear Jessica,

When people are in mourning, they’re told they can feel whatever they want. But fifteen years later, I suppose there should be a bit more tact. In 15 years, I should have my emotions under control. And yet here I am, as much at a loss as I was.

I didn’t know you well enough to ever learn the whole story. I don’t even know if you left a note. Maybe you were battling depression, or something like it. Maybe bullying. Definitely teenage hormones. We were at that perfect age when we were at both our cruelest and our most vulnerable. I guess one begets the other.

I get all that. I got all that 15 years ago, honestly, and I get it 15 years later. But I’m still mad at you. I might even be madder now, as an adult, because I see the holes in our lives where you stopped existing. I see the places where you weren’t. Why couldn’t you see yourself on this side, here, with us? How could you see such a short distance? How could you?

I have two memories of you left, both where you’re laughing. And all I can think is: that girl isn’t here anymore. There’s no more of her. I wonder if anyone else has truly happy memories of you, or if they’re all lined with sadness, like mine. Can anyone think of you and smile? Is that how you wanted it?

You’ve never googled anything or looked at your camera to see a picture you just took. You don’t know that short skirts came back in style, and then leggings, and jeggings, and now everyone decorates their home like the set of Mad Men. You’ve never seen Mad Men. Or Harry Potter.

You gave up. You never became anything. You did one stupid thing and it kept you from all the stupid things the rest of your life: frat parties, making out with your friend’s crush, wearing SPF 4…you never did the stupid things we all did that turned us into full, real, breathing human beings.

You didn’t give yourself a chance to learn anything. You didn’t learn how to speak a full sentence in Spanish or drive a car. You never dissected an animal or wrote a check. You never learned CPR.

I don’t know what your life was, and I don’t know what it would have been. But I know it could have been something. You were wrong—your decision was the wrong one, and I’m mad at you for making it. And I know I’m not supposed to be mad at teenagers for their bad choices and I’m not supposed to be mad at people who are struggling inside and I’m not supposed to be mad at people who aren’t here to defend themselves anymore.

But I’m mad at you, Jess, because my only other option is to be over it. And I just can’t be. I won’t. You deserve more than that. You always did.

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