My phone rang. I groaned, rolling over in my dorm room bed. The blue screen was flashing “matty.” It was 11 pm but I was already in bed because track workouts were killing me.
“Kaaaaaaaaaatie!” he cried into the phone.
“Are you drunk?” I mumbled, grumpy.
“No no! Just excited to talk you,” he said in that same tone. “We are playing ping pong and about to go to a party but I wanted to talk you.”
“I miss you,” I said, waking up slightly.
“I know! What’s up!?”
“I’m just tired from running so much and school, and missing everyone,” I said. “Hey I want you to listen to a song with me.”
“Okay!” he said.
Recently Josh had told me about a song by Magnet that for some reason I felt the urge to share with Matt, right then.
I pulled up my computer and opened my iTunes, scrolling to the song.
“So how’s Joe?” I asked.
“He’s awesome!” Matt exclaimed. I could hear the yelling and back ground noises of boys paling around.
“It’s so loud,” I complained.
“Okay, okay! I will go outside for a minute.”
“Okay here it is.”
I played the song through my phone from the computer. It has pretty depressing lyrics.
“I see your face on every corner of every street
You spend you days just waiting for your next defeat
But I can only tell you what I know
And all I know is that I just don’t know
I’ll get through this if I hold on
Cause the truth is I’m not alone
I’ll get through this if I hang on
The truth is I’m not alone
I’m not on my own
& you are not alone
It’s just hard sometimes to carry on
No I’m not on my own
& you are not alone
It’s just hard sometimes, so hard sometimes
But we got to hold on”
“Nice! That’s pretty,” he said. “You are adorable!”
“Matt!” I lectured. He knew he wasn’t supposed to go down that road. Over Christmas break we had been incredibly awkward, especially with me starting to have feelings for another person that wasn’t him…again.
Even though now that I think about it, I should have listened to his warning, because he turned out to be right. As usual.
We had gotten into another bad fight, the kind you can only have with someone who knows you so well they know exactly how to hurt you. He was so protective it came off as bossy and controlling sometimes, and I was cruel and judgmental. He barely looked at me the few times we saw each other over the break until I begged his forgiveness. He finally forgave me the night he flew to the Cayman Islands with his sister, but I had to go back to Georgia while he was still gone. Since going back to school we had started a tentative phone friendship that was going great. I wasn’t surprised about that, when we weren’t fighting everything ran smoothly.
“I know, it is just the truth Kaaatie!” I could tell he was smiling.
“Okay Matty, I have to go to bed now for real,” I yawned.
“Okay, bye girl.”
“Bye Matt, don’t do anything stupid. Don’t even get me started on that frat again.”
“I won’t!” He hung up.
I fell into a deep sleep, and when my alarm went off for early practice, I was surprised to notice I had some texts from a girl named Courtney. She was on my high school team, but I hadn’t heard from her at all since I’d graduated.
“Hey call me.”
“Hey please call me. Before you do anything else.”
I noticed I also had a missed call from Matt around 1 am.
I called Courtney and her phone rang once. When she picked up, I could hear the noises of school in the background.
“Katie, aren’t you friends with someone named Matt?”
“Matt Ansier? Yeah,” I said, confused.
“Katie, I think he is dead.”
“I was talking to Jordan and she said it happened last night, and mentioned that you and Cindy were like really good friends with him.”
My stomach knotted. What? It was not clicking in my brain.
“You must be mistaken,” I said.
“I might be,” she said. “I just wanted you to know. I have to go though.”
My brain started to slow down. What? This made no sense. Hadn’t he just called me? Suddenly, it clicked. All I would have to do was return his phone call and he would answer and laugh that everyone must be confused.
I clicked the call number, starting to feel reassured. It rang and rang.
That’s weird. I started to get nervous and my stomach hurt. I called my dad, who worked with Matt’s stepdad and left a voicemail for him to call me. In a haze, I packed up my stuff and went to practice and my first class. Halfway through, I saw my dad’s ID popping up on my phone. I grabbed my stuff and rushed out of the class, walking down the hall of the SLC.
“Hi dad,” I said. “Is Matt’s dad at work?”
“I haven’t heard anything specific,” he said. “But he is out of the office for a family emergency.”
I turned the corner of the SLC toward Jittery Joes and my stomach dropped out of my body. I started to slide down to the floor and before I realized it, I was sitting on the ground in the hallway.
“What?” I whispered. “Will you please let me know if you find out anything?”
“Yes. I love you”
Once again, I pulled out my phone and dialed Matt’s number. No answer this time and a weird screeching sound. I started to panic.
I tried to call Cindy. No response.
I tried to call Heather. She answered, breathless.
“Heather, have you heard anything about Matt?” I asked.
“I heard that a guy died named Matt Ansier,” she said, sounding unconcerned.
“What?” I cried.
“Who is that?” she asked.
“Heather, that is our Matt.”
“Oh, I never knew his last name….are you serious?” her voice started to shake.
“Yes!” I cried back. “I have to go.” I hung up the phone and held my head in my hands. All signs were pointing that Courtney had been right, but I didn’t want to believe it yet. I had to go to my Spanish class, so I gathered myself and walked across campus, my mind blank.
I sat in class, my mind numb to everything that my red-haired, extremely pale teacher was saying. My phone lit up and I saw it was Cindy’s number. Finally. Not even knowing what I was doing I grabbed my stuff and ran out the door.
“Cindy!” I cried. All I could here was sobbing.
“Oh my gosh, no. It’s true isn’t it?” I tried to stay calm but started to hyperventilate. I sank down onto the back steps of the History building. It was a beautiful day outside, and for some reason I noticed.
“He’s gone!” she sobbed.
“Who told you?” I asked.
“I got some texts from random people,” she cried.
I started to feel angry. Why was it okay to tell someone their best friend is dead over text?
“That is not okay!” I cried.
“I know, I know. Katie, I can’t do this.”
“What happened, exactly?” I asked, realizing I knew nothing.
“Him and Joe left a party and crashed the car into a river.”
“Were they drunk?” I asked, starting to feel horrified. Imagining our strong best friend floating in the water, trapped in the car. The purple-to-me and blue-to-him car. The car we had continually drawn inappropriate things on to embarrass him.
“I don’t know,” she said. My mind kept replaying the terrible images; I couldn’t get them out of my head.
We sat there for a few minutes crying on the phone. My mind started to flash back to his face, his eyes, his laugh, the fact that we had talked hours earlier. It was unreal, like some practical joke or something. But one that hurt.
“I have to come home,” I finally said. “When is the funeral?”
I called my parents and begged them to let me come home. Luckily they had sky miles for me to use. I called my coach and told him I couldn’t race that weekend. I walked back into the building and ran straight into my Spanish teacher.
“Where did you go?” he asked. “You probably shouldn’t just leave class like that.”
“Sorry,” I said, feeling extremely unattached to myself, sort of like a robot. “My best friend just died.” I walked away before he could give me any sympathy. I kept walking outside, not crying, just in the weird floating mood where nothing seemed real.
My phone rang again.
“Hey, where have you been?”
“Matt is dead,” I said, feeling sick that those three words were coming out of my mouth.
I told him what I knew, still feeling unattached and unemotional. I told him how I was going to come home, so I would probably see him.
“Weird,” he said. “Why are you coming home? I thought you didn’t care about him.”
I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up and my head started spinning.
“No,” I said, crying. “You are wrong.”
I hung up the phone. I realized he was right to think those things. It was all my fault. Learning from past experiences, I had played down my friendship with Matt to him so he wouldn’t be jealous and “ban” me from talking to him. I always called him when Matt and I were in a fight as well, so that was all he knew.
Soon I was angry at myself for saying those things. Angry at him for daring to voice his opinion. Angry at Matt for leaving me all alone in this. I felt so sick and nauseous—the way you feel when you know you have done something wrong. When there is nothing you can do to change it.