DISCLAIMER: Loosely based on an actual future occurrence.
It was a day for looking back, but we never imagined how many times we’d look back to it with varying emotions.
Although we didn’t know it at the time (and why should we? We were all between the ages of 13 and 18!) this was the last time we would ever be together.
Maybe that was why we were being so nostalgic.
We kept talking about things from our relatively long and expansive past, like the time we tried to start a club and the time we started a guild for the club’s survivors.
Eventually, we decided to start a game of dodgeball. It seemed like a major blast from the past, and we even played the No-Street, Stay-In-The-Yard version just for the memories it brought back.
Zan was It first, because he was always It first.
He was chasing Robbie with the ball, and no one was really surprised when Robbie ran into the street. We were laughing, keeping our distance from Zan, and yelling at Robbie to remind him that the street was off-limits this game.
Zan was yelling for Robbie to get out of the street too, but it wasn’t until we looked back and thought about it that we realized his tone was much more urgent than ours had been.
It was a matter of seconds between the moment Robbie stepped into the street and the moment we realized why Zan was being so insistent.
I’ll always remember those seconds. They were the last time I was truly happy.
A dark sedan with every indication of being a stereotypical “bad guy” car drove by without stopping. It shuddered slightly, and there was a sickening crunch. I’ve never let myself remember what I saw; it was too awful, but the sounds won’t go away.
By the time the immediate shock wore off enough to let us move, the sedan was gone.
We’d all been trained in first aid and CPR, but for some reason no one taught us to save a car crash victim.
I was dialing 9-1-1 and Spike ran inside for help. Zan crouched down next to Robbie, desperately looking for some way to save him.
“9-1-1, what is your address?” came the not-so-helpful dispatcher’s voice.
“I don’t know!” My shock-affected mind couldn’t process the question. “Just hurry! The car got away. He, he’s, he might not make it! Hurry up!”
“Calm down, ma’am. Is someone hurt?”
“I hope he isn’t hurt very bad. If you hurry, he might be okay, right?” Even in this state of desperation, I knew it was a far shot.
“What’s your name, hon?”
“Ariel,” I whispered. “But I’m okay. Robbie’s hurt. You’re coming, right? Please send an ambulance.”
“Okay, Ariel,” she was probably saying something important, but my attention was drawn to Zan.
“Ariel,” he was whispering through white lips, “Ariel, I don’t think we need an ambulance.”
I stared at him in horror, tears filling my eyes, and I felt my phone fall out of my hand. I dropped to my knees beside Zan.
“No,” I tried to say, but no sound came out. If I said no, it might not be true, so I tried again and again until all I could do was rock back and forth on my knees, crying over the badly mangled form of my friend in front of me.
It seemed like hours.
Whenever I remember that day, I remember how long everything seemed. In reality, a cop that happened to be on patrol drove by as I dropped my phone, and while I was realizing the truth, he was calling dispatch with our address. An ambulance was dispatched, Zan’s parents were running out with Spike, and a few neighbors were hurrying over to make sure everything was okay.
The ambulance came, a lot of pictures were taken, Robbie was taken away, and a few police officers were asking Spike, Zan, and me a lot of questions.
“I know this is hard for you,” was pretty much the only thing I remember hearing clearly. We heard it way too many times sitting on the front porch that afternoon.
“For the last time,” I heard my hollow voice say surprisingly clearly, “we were playing dodgeball in the yard. We decided the street was out of bounds. Robbie was running into the street. We were telling him he was out of bounds. The black car hit him, it didn’t stop, the windows were tinted,” my voice took on a little intensity and I heard myself start yelling, “there were no plates, I called 9-1-1 right away, Spike got Zan’s parents, Zan ran to help, there wasn’t anything we could do, that cop got here first, Robbie’s never coming back, and we’re all failures aren’t we?”
Tears blinded me as I jumped up and stalked into the house.
Behind me, I heard the officer giving Zan his card and saying “If you remember anything else,” before I slammed the door and ran to the toy room.
Zan and Spike must have followed me as fast as they could, but when they got there, I was standing frozen in the door, staring at the table we’d all been sitting at when we decided to play dodgeball.
They stood behind me in confusion until they saw what I saw.
“Oh, no. That’s not. Oh, Robbie,” Zan and Spike murmured behind me.
I moved toward the table. In a touch of foreshadowing, I guess, we’d all written bucket lists. When we walked in the room, Robbie’s list was staring us in the face.
We could hear our parents all talking upstairs about what they should do with us, but none of us wanted to leave each other just yet.
Zan reached for the list with a strange look in his eyes and grabbed his car keys with the other hand.
“Where are you going?” we asked.
“We can’t leave his list undone. I can’t leave his list undone. He deserves this, guys, and I’m giving it to him.”
I looked at Spike as Zan walked past us, and without having to say anything, we each knew what the other was thinking.
That’s how all three of us ended up in the cab of Zan’s pick-up truck, without even saying goodbye to a life we knew we’d never see again.
Here’s to Robbie. Here’s to closure. Here’s to the best friends a guy could have. And here’s how we’re gonna do it.
If you’d like to see more of this story, let me know in the comments below.