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How Odd
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ghost

How odd to have forgotten the way Lily used to shake the bed to wake me. In such a deep sleep, I would come swimming out of some dark dream. And, realizing who it was, would pitch my eyes shut, praying she'd think I was still under, let me alone. Seems cruel, looking back, to leave her in the dark. I couldn't face the sadness and anger I knew I would see. It was easier to forget.

Even more odd was the fact that this moment of denial in the middle of the night was as close as we ever got. Our only moments truly together. And yet, here it is haunting me again.

The day Lily first came to me is etched into my memory as though the artist lacked all of his tools, and so just pried chunks out of time. The last class of the day, last dance of the class, full-out as though you might never move this hard again: she falls, the unknown girl who just hit on my boyfriend at the water fountain. She is laughing with the rest of us, breathless laughing at our mistakes, our joy. We slow to a stop, but she does not rise, slumping there on the floor.

Her asthma, someone shouts and someone else grabs the inhaler. She is limp and not breathing at all. Moment of silence, stunned. My roommate shoves me forward -- me, the lifeguard. I want to protest: I pull toddlers out of pools, I save Annies, I do not save actual people. I kneel down to her, organize my brain, get the boy to hold her head and the roommate to do compressions. Instantly regret Taco Bell for lunch. Breathe into her over and over, over and over ... over time the breath feels different, it comes out of her lifeless.

Later, someone brings me a shamrock shake, someone else reports that she has died. My boyfriend, rattled with shock, tells me he slept with her over spring break. The teacher hugs me, but the family never does. I spend hour after hour wondering if I really checked her pulse, checked her breath, counted right.

Rumors later that she died of a diet pill overdose; the ugly girls liked that one. The school says it was a heart condition, like that ice skater. I believe none of it. She shakes my bed for an entire year, I pretend not to feel it, I pretend so hard that I forget. How odd to forget killing someone, how odd to find her again.

end of essay
Malia Cole Portrait Malia was first published at the age of 12, in The Minneapolis StarTribune. She has only a vague memory of the story itself, but clearly remembers her teacher rewarding her with a Hershey's Special Dark block bar. She is now mommy to Aislin and wife to Bryan. She spends her days as an arts marketer and spends her favorite evenings taking baby ballroom classes with Miss AZ. | more essays by Malia
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