Friday, September 23, 2005

keeping secrets for the dead

As sure as life will always give way to death, joy is sure to move over for grief in time. She was happy on the outside. She came from a wealthy family, was pretty and popular - always smiling. The worst part of it all was that smile. It wasn't the kind of smile a girl puts on when she's hiding something. It wasn't plastic and superficial, but warm and genuine. A selfless girl, she seemed to find joy in finding joy in others. So it came as a bit of a surprise when she hanged herself in her mother's closet one crisp September day. She didn't leave a note.

Here's what the Cool Kids didn't want you to know: being cool wasn't a lot of fun. Long before reality television brought with it shows like The Real Life, Survivor, and Big Brother, there were the Cool Kids - part of a show rife with backstabbing and betrayal, double-crossing and deceit. Alliances were formed, and played against one another. Each school year saw contestants voted out of the clique, and new ones elevated in status. Rising through the ranks, sharpening their teeth. Whatever misdeeds were committed against those outside the group paled in comparison to the much more vicious infighting. But this isn't what did her in. No, she survived, and in fact thrived in this cruel environment. She was that one player who managed to play the game with honour and integrity. The type of player who managed to play with dignity and grace right to the very end. No, it wasn't the game that did her in - it was something far more sinister.

She dated this boy for a couple months in the last year of her life. Nothing serious. They walked to school together, and on the weekends, laid in the park at night beneath the stars, talking about Lennon and exploring the poets. They smoked a little pot sometimes, and laughed about school politics while running their fingers through the cool, dark grass and squinting up at the huge, bright moon. But laughs turned to tears one night. Instead of the usual wobbly talk of Ezra Pound and Ginsberg, there was a mad whispering of deep, dark secrets. A trembling flood of admissions - horrid tales. A terrible promise of secrecy. They didn't date much longer after that night. It wasn't so much a breaking-up, as it was a growing apart - that old thing. And that night in the park was never mentioned again. She would be dead within nine months.

And what did her brief life stand for? What meaning can be taken from her sixteen years? Was the end preventable? Her suicide came as a complete surprise for most people - for most people. It was like this that the boy found himself saddled with an impossibly heavy burden: the choice between keeping the secrets in death that he kept in life or a posthumous betrayal. Even if it meant keeping the girl's reason for jumping the fence between life and death to himself. Even if it meant keeping those who loved her in the dark. He couldn't bring himself to say a word. He had made a promise. Could anyone possibly know how hard that decision must have been? How hard it must be still?

She didn't leave a note. She didn't have to - she relayed it to a boy in the park, months previous. Beneath the stars. A head full of THC. Her fingers tearing at the cool, dark grass. The huge, bright moon blurry in teary eyes. To this day he hasn't told anyone. Somewhere, the boy struggles, still, with that decision made in favour of keeping secrets for the girl - and that decision he made in favour of keeping secrets for the dead.

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