Dedicated to a dear friend of mine
Wherever you are
I hope you're at peace
Sofia at night. Somewhere near Kopitoto. A designated parking spot.
'It looks so different from up here. I never realized how bright it was', I say.
We're sitting in Sammy's car. The windows are rolled down as we both smoke. Somehow the cold isn't bothering us. People call it "January blues", but sometimes it transitions to other months as well. The silence around us is daunting. We're not used to it. It has nothing to do with silence when you're in the city (if you're lucky enough to experience any silence there). It's the magical abilities of the mountain which shelters you, lets your thoughts run wild and free. Time is uninterrupted, almost not existing. Although this place is notorious for being a safe haven to men who take their mistresses up here, far away from their wives or girlfriends, or just couples who like to get freaky in the mountain, there aren't any cars in sight. Our reasoning for being here is vastly different.
'I can't believe he's gone', she finally says to me. We haven't talked about it yet. I feel heaviness in my chest. I've been feeling it for a week and I'm sure it's not just me. This conversation has been sitting in the backseat of the car for hours now. We tried to ignore it. We tried talking about other things, lighter things. We tried making jokes and talking about our days like nothing happened. Maybe it's some sort of a coping mechanism, maybe we still haven't found the right words to address what happened. Maybe if we say it out loud it will suddenly become true. Maybe...
'I just can't believe he's gone', she says again.
'Me neither. How did we get here?'
No answer. It's one of those rare occasions when Sammy and I don't know how to talk with each other. Or what to say to each other. She's my best friend. I've known her for a decade, we've grown up together, went to the same high school, have the same friends. She knows me better than I know myself and I trust her unconditionally. We've been through so much. She's the one I call at six in the morning if something happens. I'm the one she calls at six in the morning if something happens. Well, something happened.
'I thought everything would be fine. I ensured myself this was only temporary, just some bad luck...', I look out the window. I can feel my eyes water so I stop myself before I burst into tears. I look down at the city I love so much. I grew up here - right in the heart of the air pollution, the post communist depression, in the outskirts of Vitosha. Sofia has always been my safe place, my home town, the city I found so much joy in. I've left many times, but was always happy to come back. Now that I was looking at all the lights, seeing how the cars that look like little dots from up here move along the boulevards, the thought of him not being able to come back here hit me like a bullet.
'We're never going to see him again. He's never going to come back home and tell us about his awful roommate. He's never going to sleep in his own bed again. Or talk to us. Or his mother. He's never going to get married and have kids and grow old with the love of his life. He's never going to experience anything.'
'We're never going to see him again', she repeats. I finally look at her. She looks at me.
'We have to be able to talk about it,' I say.
'I know. But what is there to talk about? How life is unfair? How it's always the good people? How none of this was supposed to happen? We didn't get the chance to visit him,' she sobs and I hug her. We stay like that for a few minutes. The silence was getting unbearable. We finally let go and she wipes her eyes.
'Let's talk about how good he was with people. How he always made us laugh. He had such a great sense of humour. I will probably never meet anyone like him again.'
'And he always knew what to say. Do you remember when we went to this God forsaken village in the summer and it was pouring rain? He left us waiting on the train station and ran to get us an umbrella so we don't get wet. He came back twenty minutes later, out of breath, wet as a dog, but he somehow got us that umbrella.'
'I'm glad we went on this trip together. I didn't sleep for fifty hours, but it was worth it,' I say, 'what about the story he told me about the meat he forgot in the oven for three months? It inspired me so much I made it into a poem.'
We both laugh.
'He was the greatest story teller. Even when he got sick, even through the chemo, even when he was experiencing all those scary, horrifying things, he talked about them like it was nothing. He somehow managed to make them sound funny and light. He was never scared', I have to stop myself again. I don't want to cry.
'You know what's awful? I go about my day and I drink my coffee and I go to work and then I see his desk and it hits me - he's gone. And then I do other things and take my mind off it but then something happens and suddenly I remember he's... dead.' That's the first time any of us had said that. The word kind of hangs in the space between us a little longer. As if it wants to sink into our minds. To make itself real. It's not hiding behind stories from the past anymore. It's here.
'This feeling never goes away. We'll be constantly reminded of it by little things and major things. That's just life... it'll be over before we know it,' I say and look down at my hands. I think about grandpa. I think about all the people I have lost throughout the years. All the people I'll continue to lose. All the things I unwillingly have to accept and try to move on. I think about time and how it creeps in on us and makes itself visible only when it's too late.
'Yeah... over before we know it,' she looks at me and squeezes my hand, 'I love you. I want you to know that.'
'I know. I love you, too.'
Please, read this:
This was Desislava Georgieva’s graduation short story, published here exactly as submitted.