Speech By Speech

fullsizerender-3I walked through the double doors of the school. I thought I would only see this place maybe once more in my life, but here I was right back here. My palms were sweaty and I was already shaking. My mom could tell that I was nervous. Everyone else probably could too. The lady at the front instructed us where to sit and we entered into the gymnasium. There were already people sitting down and some at the front looking at Stancil. My sight first landed on her when I walked in. An overwhelming amount of longing rushed over me as I wished, for the thousandth time, for this all to be a nightmare that I would wake up from. My mom found us a seat and I sat, not paying attention as to where. There was only one thing I was focused on.

It reminded me a lot of my graduation day. The way all the seniors gathered in one of the hallways and talked, joked, and laughed. I was with Stancil that day and my former boyfriend. I remember being so nervous that I couldn’t say anything. That I didn’t want to. I was set to give the valedictory speech for my class. They both told me how it was such an honor and that I would do amazing. Then we had to line up, forming two lines—it was time to walk into the gym. I waited, anxiously for our turn to walk and to get to my seat. I felt like I could not stand. Like I could not hold myself up any longer. I was so nervous, but I had them to look at.

I was feeling that among other things at the moment. Natural dread mixed in with the feelings. I just watched her. She was lying there, sleeping peacefully—never to wake again. The funeral hadn’t started yet, but I knew it would soon with all of the people now filing in. Kourtney, a former student just like me, came up and asked me if I wanted to go outside for a few minutes and wait for her friend. We went outside and just stood while other people walked up. We didn’t talk, there was nothing to say. One of my favorite teachers, and Stancil’s, came up toward us and enveloped us in a hug. I cannot remember what she told us, but I remember blurting out.

“I’m speaking.” I remember the feeling I got in my chest as I said it. It just continued to tighten as if it would eventually just explode. She looked at me, sympathy filling her eyes.

“Do you have a tissue?” I said no and she began searching through her purse for an extra one. She handed it to me. I stuffed it in the pocket of the dress I was wearing. “Take your time up there. Feel free to cry.”

“She was- She was leaving my house.” I said, feeling as if it took every last ounce of me to say those words. I felt the tears forming in my eyes, but I did not let them fall. She hugged me one more time before telling me something about the speech and going inside. Kourtney’s friend came up shortly after and we all went back in. As we sat down the funeral procession started, I could feel my heart beating faster by the second. Everything was such a blur until the moment arose for me to get up from where I was sitting and walk to the podium. Time began to move slowly as I got up from my seat. I walked the same path I walked on graduation night. Walked up the same stairs. Walked across the same stage. And then, finally, stood behind the same podium. I remembered in that moment, as I was unfolding my paper, on my graduation night that I looked out into the crowd as I spoke. I looked at three teachers that had shaped my life in some way. Then I took a look at my boyfriend. Then I searched the crowd for Stancil until I found her. As that moment went on, before I began to speak, I looked out at the crowd. There was probably less people in the gym that day, but it still felt the same. The weight of what I had to say. I searched for her and then glanced at the casket that lied before me. With that, I looked down at my paper because I realized then that I no longer had anything left to look for and began to speak. After I finished, I don’t even remember if the audience clapped or did anything. I didn’t expect them to. I just remember walking off the stage in a different way than last time and sitting back down in my seat. The rest of the service also went by in a blur, until my attention was caught by someone handing me a flower to load in the car outside. Almost everyone had gathered outside, just like our graduation day, except this time they were replaced with solemn faces. I couldn’t take it anymore so I went back inside to find my mom. When I got to her, a teacher that Stancil and I both knew, and had a class together in, came up to me and hugged me.

“You have to keep going for her now. She will always be with you.” I remembered murmuring something, but I can’t remember what it was and she hugged me again. Then the teacher I had met before the funeral came up and hugged me once again.

“You did good.” I nodded. However, in my head I was saying, it wasn’t for me. Then my mom asked if I was good to go and I nodded. On the way out, two other members of the school’s faculty tapped on the glass from the office and mouthed “You did good.” I nodded and took it even though I didn’t want the credit. I only did it for her. After that, we went to the burial site and I hugged her stepfather and talked to a few more members of her family before leaving.

Later that night, I had wondered if she was proud. If I had done the speech justice and if I had captured basics of our friendship in three short minutes. Just as I had wondered the same on graduation night. I caught myself starting to text her and ask her, like I did on that night. Then I realized looking at her name on my phone that I would never honestly know how I did on that night, because she will never be able to tell me. I checked my phone once more, just as I had the nights prior to, hoping to have a response. But nothing good would come of it. Then I realized something more devastating.

I would never be able to read the line she would always say to me— “I’m such a proud friend.” Everything had changed forever.


How Five Minutes Can Change Your Life


Five minutes. What can happen in five minutes? You can heat up your food in under five minutes. You can brush your teeth in under that allotted amount of time. It can take five minutes for your whole life to change. Or it can take five minutes to drive away from my house and to the stop sign at the end of the road. Five minutes. That’s all it takes. Just five minutes. It took just five minutes for my best friend to leave my house and come to the crossroads, where she would meet her untimely demise.

Now, I can’t tell you much from our time together that day. Quite frankly, I don’t remember what we sat on my couch and talked about for hours. I do remember, however, the way she walked into the house with one of the biggest smiles. She said something about my hair, because I had just had it done and she liked it. I also remember what was on the television behind us as we talked. It was the TV show that I introduced to her and that she ended up loving. The only other thing I remember about our time together that day is walking to her car as she was getting ready to go. I remember talking about her mom’s car, which she was driving, and the car that I was going to have—almost an exact replica. Then we said a few other words before she got in her car and started it up. I had already gone up the steps to my house ready to go in, but I turned back around and there she was. Through the tinted window, I saw her waving at me with a big smile on her face. I smiled and waved back before going directly inside.

It took me ninety-five minutes before I figured out that she was gone. What was I doing? I was joking around with my sister and my mom. I was also looking up different things that went toward my dream. All of this I planned to tell her when she texted me that night. It was then as I was looking more into my dream that I got a phone call from an unknown number.

“Hey. Is this Brianna?” I answered. “Where is my sister? Is she still with you?” With this question, I could feel the rapid beating of my heart as I searched for an answer. It was as if someone had knocked the breath from me.

“I thought she was with you. She left to go pick up her sister.” My sister who was near heard this and was now looking at me trying to figure out what I was talking about.

“Yeah this is the sister. She never showed up.”

“She’s not here.” That’s all I could manage to say.

“Well could you give me your address? We are going to go look for her.” I gave her the address and she ended the call. After that, I ran around the house trying to find my shoes and my keys. I wasn’t just going to sit here and wait for answers. I was going to look too. Or so I thought. As I had gathered my things, about to walk out, my mom and stepdad walked in.

Completely panicked, “Stancil didn’t show up to get her sister. They don’t know where she is. I need to go find her.” My mom’s eyes grew wide.

“You’re not driving. I’m coming with you.” She began to look for her keys and our neighbor, who is a detective, pulled into his yard. My stepdad stopped us in our tracks and told us not to go. By this time, we were all gathered in the kitchen. Well, all except my brother. Me, well, I was trying to hold back my own tears. I knew what had already happened without having to physically know. Just then, my brother walked in the door.

“There’s cops all around the crossroads.” With that statement, I attempted to dart out the door once more only to be stopped by my mom.

“I’ll call the neighbor. He just came back.” My mom said. As she was on the phone with him, she dropped back leaning on the freezer for support. Then they ended the call and she began talking.

“There was a bad wreck,” she inched toward me. “Stancil was involved in it.” A hint of optimism seeped through my mind. What hospital was she in? Why are we still standing here? I have to go be with her. I have to make sure she is okay. These were all of my thoughts. “She didn’t make it.” And as to reiterate, just in case I hadn’t heard the first time, “She’s gone.” I wanted to run down to the intersection. I wanted to do something, anything. How could I make this right? How could I save her? But instead I stood there in the corner of our kitchen—frozen. My mom pulled me into a hug. One that was not returned. How could this be? She was just here and now she’s not. Just like that. She is gone, forever. I murmured lost words to my mother as I tried to make sense of it, but nothing would make sense. Not to me. I had just lost my only friend. How were things supposed to make sense now when the only thing that made sense was being friends with her?

So now you see how I am stuck at the crossroad—literally and figuratively. I wish there was something other I could say than there is no answer on how to deal with this. Not yet. Not for me. There is a light in all things, like there was in her. However, I just haven’t found the light in this yet. And I’m not sure when I will.