“The truth is . . . once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” – Tuesday with Morrie
“Ironic isn’t it?” I jerked my thumb over to the man on the side of the road with the giant, picket sign reading, The End is Coming!
“Why is that ironic?” Emily asked, finishing up the rest of her burrito with one hand and pushing my wheelchair with the other. She was dropping gobs of rice in between mouthfuls all over my blanket. I flicked them off one at a time.
“The end is coming,” I answered. “Just not for him.”
“Why do you have to say shit like that?” Emily snapped down at me. She continued pushing us down the sidewalk leading up the park. There was a bench at the top of the hill that we deemed as our own. Anytime we showed up to our seats being occupied, it was easy to play the cancer card. One of the few times I never felt guilty about it.
“I’m just being honest,” I responded shrugging my shoulders.
“That doesn’t mean I want to hear it,” she said chucking the rest of her burrito in a nearby trash can. “Thanks for ruining my appetite.”
“Don’t be dramatic,” I told her, thankful she wasn’t able to see me roll my eyes at her.
“How am I being dramatic? You’re the one talking about the ‘End of Times’ for God’s sake.”
“Will you calm down?” I asked somewhat surprised by how worked up she was getting. There were plenty of times when she would panic about the cancer. Yes, it was terminal, but I’ve known that for over a year now. Maybe it was because we both knew the end was fast approaching, just like the man prophesied to the people driving by.
I waited for Emily to say something, but she stayed quiet. I tried to turn in my seat to look up at her, but it was too much for my body to shift like that on my own. Suddenly, she stopped my wheel chair and then she was standing in front of me, crying.
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked appalled. I’d seen her cry countless times and vice versa, but she’s never, in our entire fourteen years of friendship, cried in public. “What’s wrong?”
Emily sniffed and blubbered and refused to look at me. Her face was hidden behind her hands and her shoulders shook. People started to look over either concerned or annoyed.
“Get down here so I can talk to you!” I demanded and tugged on the bottom of her shirt. She tried to stop crying, pointlessly wiping away tears, and moved to sit down at the closest picnic table. Despite the effort it took to do so, I unlocked my chair and wheeled myself to park next to her.
“I’m sorry,” she told me. I was just thankful she was able to formulate coherent words. “I just- I just don’t know how I’m gonna do this.”
“Lose you,” she said now looking right at me, her face wet. “Every time I think about it, I wanna die right there with you.”
“Like The Notebook?”
“Exactly,” she answered.
“I am flattered.” I smiled and batted my eyes at her. “But as much as I want you to be by my side in Heaven, I’d rather wait. I think you would too.”
“How are you so calm all the time?” She pulled out a tissue from her handbag clearly prepared for a melt down.
I was hardly ever calm about anything happening to me, but around her I was. Always.
“Because of you,” I told her taking her face in my hands. “My very best friend. My bright light. You are my happiness.”
Emily started to cry again, but this was different. She smiled and told me she loved me before pushing us to our bench at the top of the hill.
“I’ll come back here,” she told me, her hands running over our friendship braclets we’ve had since we were nine. “Even after you’re gone. I’ll come back and think of you.”
I smiled over at her as we both sat there with linked arms. As we talked we closed our eyes, letting the warmth of the sun shine down on our faces. And I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am to have someone who would take the time to be with me. Cry for me. Die for me.