Glow In The Dark
It was a blistering day in May. The temperature had peaked at about 98 degrees at one point in the afternoon. The sun beat down upon the necks of my fellow students and the school seemed to be filled with a haze leaving the air heavy and our brows dripping with sweat. At last, the final bell came and I rushed down to the choir room, where I kept most of my books, excited about the idea of an air conditioned car ride to my home filled with fans.
“Beach?” Owen called. “What?” I thought. “A senior talking to a lowly freshmen?” I immediately agreed and small group of students and I filed into someones car and zoomed down the road with every window open. We reached Twin Lakes Park, a lonely beautiful place with huge trees scraping a cloudless spring sky, rounding the edges of this big blue bowl set in the middle of a vast expanse of green.
The air was thick and we ran gratefully into the water. We came up renewed and with our heads clear and refreshed. We swam about, laughing and splashing one another, until we decided to swim to the shore across from us. It wasn't a long swim and the challenge beckoned. We swam and reached the other shore our arms and legs sore. Concluding that we wouldn't have the strength to swim back across we forged ourselves a path through the lush foliage cutting our bare backs on twigs and branches. From the banks however we heard a scream.
“Guys! Guys! Owens gone!!”
“I call B.S.” one of us said but we rushed back all the same. This was just Kurt being stupid. Just some ridiculous ruse to get us into the water again. But when we reached the shore, Owen was nowhere to be seen. I ran towards the beach and found my cell phone trapped in the pocket of my jeans and phoned the police. They were already on their way. I rushed towards the road and directed them to the beach. Throughout this my friends were searching the deep and crushing waters to find Owen. By the time we had directed them to the beach they had found him and he was being held by a group of students on the surface. I jumped in the water which was now cold and lonely. I swam, my arms aching and helped the congregation hold his blue body afloat. There was a small rescue team on the beach with naught but their shoes in the water. They had sent students out with a raft who were now trying to heave his body onto the raft. They got him on it and he was dragged to shore. We ran around the corner and watched as the police preformed CPR. We heard the defibrillator crack and his body contort. They lifted him onto a stretcher and he was rushed to Munson Medical Center. A fir engine arrived later,spraying listlessly the white foam that Owen's body spit from him.
We were left alone in a small pavilion in the blistering summers heat to reflect over what we had just witnessed. I couldn't cry, I was too optimistic. This sort of thing only happens in the movies! I thought. This doesn't happen in a little Mid-Western town in the pinky of the Michigan mitten. It was surreal, too fragile to try and make some sense of it. Too massive to break from this dream into a painful reality.
We sat in lonely uninterrupted silence. Until we sang. We were all in our school choir, a world renowned choir program and all of us had good voices. We sang “Down to the River to Pray.” and we prayed, listlessly praying to the blue cloudless heavens. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in heaven, but I hoped with all my being that there was a God. I prayed he'd bring this nightmare to an end and let me wake from this miserable dream.
We were driven by various adults to the pastors home where we waited in painful silence. We sat and stared at the floor for about an hour but I could have grown old in that silence. The pastor walked in the room. Our collective breath was held.
“I just got a call from the hospital, they did everything they could but Owen passed,”
I didn't cry. Not at first. My father sat on the porch outside and I ran to him and buried myself in his arms. And in the his arms I wept. I wept like a newborn babe. I felt the vastness and immense weight of a godless universe upon my aching body.
We drove home and I put on the radio. I didn't speak.
We arrived home and I came upon my mother in her garden. We embraced and she asked “How would we honor him?”
“I'm going to play really fucking loud.”
I played my guitar and sang in tears and anguish. Painful notes and raw emotion pouring from my instrument. The songs I played were by Pat Carroll an amazing musician and mentor to students and young musicians. A release something so animal, so primal. It left me breathless as the tones shook our home.
On the social networks that evening a wildfire had begun. Condolences, RIP's, and remembrances. It was then I came a across another, but not for Owen. It turns out that Patrick Carroll, the man who, not hours before had helped the pain and anguish be released in his powerful words had died at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio from Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is a disease that affects primarily the lungs and Pat had already received a double lung transplant and was in Cleveland awaiting his second. After his first transplant his body had rejected his new lungs and he had been struggling to gain the right amount of weight in order to have the operation. He had been pretty sick. But it pained me to think that as Owen last breath filled with water Pat was struggling to pull his inside. I ran outside onto the grass and screamed. Every ounce of raw hatred in my heart directed at a world who'd given up on two amazing beings who had nothing but love to give to her. There I lay.
When I walked back into the house my dad was crying softly at the the kitchen table. It was the first time I'd ever seen him cry in my life and I laughed for shock and awe. He asked me to play Pat's music one more time. We sat in tears and sang “Stay Up Late” off of Pat's record “Glow in the Dark” and we did. We watched the sun slip behind a cold horizon and witnessed the moon caressing a dark foreboding night, shedding a comforting glow over the treetops. It was four in the morning when we slipped off into dreamless slumber.