Five years ago, I travelled down a path that I refuse to ever return to. While it was a common journey, it was scarring enough that I built interior walls I don’t ever know if it can be taken down.
I was only 12-years-old — an even younger and more naïve person than I am now. Most of my friends at the time were concerned with the transition from middle school to the high school jungle. What about me? I was concerned about my best friend, Simon.
I met Simon through a mutual friend, Nicola, over MSN Messenger. Initially, Simon and I did not get along, not even in the slightest bit. I never realized how easy it could be for two strangers to have so much tension. The both of us would often strongly disagree and argue what was best for Nicola who was confronting her own personal problems at the time. However, we both realized that we wanted what was best for our friend and from there, we gradually became close. Looking back now, I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
It was in that period of my life that I truly understood what it meant to not judge something, or rather someone, by his or her cover. Simon soon became my anchor. His positivity was contagious and always had an answer for my petty problems. Whether it was my boy problems, school-related stress, or family issues, like any good friend, Simon knew exactly what to say to make me feel better.
The problem with that, I didn’t know, I couldn’t make him feel better. No matter how hard I tried, how much I wanted, I was helpless to a wise 13-year-old boy who had helped me so much.
It was a morning before homeroom when Nicola sat me down outside our classroom. Her legs were trembling and she couldn’t look at me. She stumbled on her words, finding the right way to tell me – as if there was a right way.
“Simon’s mom walked in to wake him up for school and she saw blood everywhere on his bed. He was just lying there unconscious,” she hesitated. “They rushed him to the hospital and she called my mom to tell her who told me”
Nicola continued on to tell me that Simon was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago and has been fighting it ever since. Tears began to uncontrollably fall out of my eyes and my body was numb. To me, it was unfathomable that someone as kind-hearted and good like Simon could be facing something so poisonous and toxic.
That night, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with him over MSN, just like we always did. I was so angry with him that he didn’t tell me but I was in such awe that he remained so strong and happy through such a terrible ordeal. I was probably such a fool for complaining about boy crushes and assignments I didn’t want to do when he was literally fighting for his life.
I asked him how long he had and he assured me I didn’t want to know the answer. I told him I did and I wish I could remember his exact response today. It pains me that I don’t but whatever amount of time he had left, I know it wasn’t long enough.
At this point, Simon and I still had not met in person. Our entire friendship was based on communicating through a simple application. One might be skeptical about our relationship; no one even needs to believe it. What’s important is that I know my friendship with Simon and it was one that can never be replaced.
I desperately wanted to visit him in the hospital, to be the crutch for him that he has always been for me. He wouldn’t allow me to because he didn’t want me to see him attached to wires and tubes. He didn’t want me to see him sick. He didn’t want those to be the circumstances we met.
From there, Simon’s body began to fail him and slowly, his time was running out. I think we both found comfort that Nicola, Simon and I would celebrate when he got discharged from the hospital. We all said we’d hang out everyday after spring break, doing what kids do. We all just wanted everything to return back to normal but all we really wanted was for him to be healthy again.
He would tell me how much pain he was in and how it would be easier if his family took him off life-support and deep down, I think I knew he wouldn’t make it. But, I had to believe otherwise. I owed him that much.
Simon went into surgery and nearly died on the table. He went in for a second surgery and came out in a coma. One day passed, two days passed, a week passed and he still had not woken up. His family decided it was time to take their son out of his undeserving pain and misery and take him off life-support.
And just like that, his heart stopped beating.
I want to convey the struggle I had with my depression and what it was like to be anorexic as a by-product of that. I want to convey the darkness of having suicidal thoughts but I can’t. Truth be told, everything from that time is now such a blur.
It took me a long time to let myself be happy. Years after his passing, any time I allowed a smile to slip through, any time I’d feel a glimmer of happiness, it would be quickly followed by guilt. How could I be happy when I lost one of my best friends?
I couldn’t do anything to save his life, I didn’t do anything to save his life, yet I was there being happy like nothing had happened. The only way I managed to overcome that guilt was a promise Simon made me agree to.
Simon, I promise to be happy. Not for you, but for me.