“They’re inseparable, those two.” My mom would often say. She wasn’t wrong.
Jess and I have been best friends since nursery school. We knew each other so well. So that’s how I know she’ll wake up. There I was, sitting at her hospital bed, clutching her hand, holding back tears. I rested my head on her stomach. C’mon, I’m better than this. Don’t cry. Don’t. Cry. I don’t remember what happened to Jess. All I know is that I’m here now, sitting at what might be her deathbed.
“Don’t leave me... Please, I NEED you.” I softly whispered into her ear.
Holding back tears was about the hardest thing to do. I couldn’t help myself. If I lost her, it’d feel like I lost a part of myself. I took a minute. I wiped off the tears with my shirt, letting out a strong sniff before touching her cheek and leaving the room.
I walked out of that hospital room with a sense of feeling lost.
“She can’t be dead.” I thought.
“Whatever happened to her, I’m sure it can be treated, right?”
It felt like I was lying to myself. For what? This is stupid. I should just come to grips with it. I was walking down the hall, looking at the floor. I froze up when her parents approached the room. Her Mom stopped to talk to me.
“What happened to Jess? What happened to my poor baby?” She said in shock. I could see the fear in her eyes. Poor lady, she just found out. She was holding both my arms tight, looking at me right in the eye. I felt like I was put on the spot to answer.
“I-I don’t know, I was already here and--” I cut myself off. How did I get here? I don’t remember driving. I guess I rode in the EMT truck with Jess when it happened. She noticed the pause, so she continued.
“Listen, Nick. I know this is a lot to take in. I think you need some rest, honey. I can tell this is stressing you out. You should head on home, okay? Say hi to your mom for me.” She said to me.
“W-will do, Ms. Maheshwaran.” I said to her. I drove home feeling out of sorts.
What happened to Jess? She’s in a coma, but from what? From who? For some reason, I felt like I knew what happened to her. I think I just needed to clear my head; my mind felt fuzzy. I opened the door to my apartment, threw the keys on the kitchen table and went to my bedroom.
As I took off my coat, I noticed an orange hue in the corner of my eye. I turned around with a quickness. It was sitting on my nightstand. What the hell is that? I wondered, as I curiously walked over to it. A pill bottle. It had Rohypnol written on it. Did someone drug me? Is that why I don’t remember anything from the past 48 hours? I started to piece together a theory.
“It was her BOYFRIEND.” I said to myself.
It made sense. I never liked that guy. He didn’t cherish her like I did, but for some reason, Jess felt obligated to stay with this asshole. He probably got her to overdose or something. Enough to knock her into a coma. What the hell is this dude’s problem? I was gonna confront him. I got in my car, and proceeded to drive to Chris’s house. I knew it for sure. He was a little bit of a druggie, so I’m not surprised that it was him.
I got to his front porch, furious. I did two hard knocks on the door; pattering my foot, arms crossed. I shook my head in disbelief and anger. This guy BETTER have a good reason. At this point, there’s nothing stopping me from straight up killing this guy. He answered the door, looking like he just woke up. Figures.
“So, that's your ideal Saturday, huh? Just, beat your girlfriend half to death, and go back to sleep. Job well done, you psychopath?!” I shouted at him.
“What the hell are you talking about?” He said, confused. He was still rubbing his eyes, adjusting to the morning sun.
“Oh wow,” I slow clapped, “Bravo, bravo… Oscar worthy performance. Feel good about yourself, Ted Bundy?”
“What happened to Jess? Is she in the hospital?” He said, lost.
“C’mon, man. Cut the shit, I know it was you. Just come clean and I promise I’ll do the same to you that you did to Jess.” I said, stepping towards him as I was rolling up my sleeves. He raised his arms in a backing off motion.
“Hey, what are you doing? I didn’t even KNOW Jess was in the hospital.”
I had that feeling again. I touched my head, stumbling back a bit. I regained balance, and apologized to Chris.
“S-sorry, man. I’m just out of it, today. It’s just… What happened with Jess. It was… Bad.”
“You would know. She was with you last.”
“WHAT? Since when?”
“Well, you said you guys were gonna go on a hike, remember?”
“No, not really.”
A faded memory started to surface in my mind. I WAS with her. She was knocked unconscious, in front of me. Did I let the killer get away?
“Um,” He snapped his fingers at me, “Nick? You good.”
The image slipped away from my mind; Chris snapped me out of it.
“Dude, what the hell? I was starting to piece together what happened in my head!” I said, angry.
“Sorry,” he paused, “I’m gonna check on Jess. What hospital is she at?”
“Ask her mom, she’ll tell you.” I said.
He frantically got in his car and drove off. I was still standing on his porch, lost. What happened on that hike?
I layed in bed, staring at the ceiling. Who would do this to her? She was a light of hope in this horrible world. A whole future ahead of her; she wanted to be a nurse. Help people, take care of them. Nursing them back to recovery, making sure their families can still make memories with loved ones. She was such a sweet girl. I remember the time we were out in the woods once. We were 12. I saw a roly-poly bug, so I was gonna squash it.
“No, don’t do that!” Jess shouted at me. I froze in my tracks.
“What? Why not?” I curiously asked.
“C’mon, get on outta here.” She said, as she shooed the bug away.
"What's the big deal? It's just a bug."
"It's more than just a bug, Nick. It's a living creature."
"But it's not like," I paused, "Human or anything."
“How would you feel if someone stepped on YOU?”
“Um, no one’s that big.”
“Yeah, but imagine if you were that bug. You have a family that loves you. The bestest friend in the whole wide world!” She grinned, then continued, “Imagine you have a nice job, comfortable house, on your way back from work. And then BAM, just like that, some guy steps on you. And that’s it. Gone.”
“Yeah, I guess I would feel really bad, huh?”
“You’d be dead, silly.”
It’s funny how it comes full circle. Not good funny, though. Like, sadistically, unfortunately funny. I wasn’t sad for Jess, Which was weird. I should feel for her, right? Am I grieving correctly? Does that even make sense? There’s no wrong way to grieve. I felt more sad for the person who did this. It’s like, why? Why’d you do this?
She did nothing to you. You had no reason. She didn’t deserve this. Why does the world work this way? I hadn’t noticed that I started tearing up; I could barely see the ceiling anymore.
I wiped them off my face and began asking for forgiveness.
“Please, God. Help me. It should’ve been me. I know whoever did this didn’t mean it. Take that person’s life for hers.”
But for some reason, I didn’t want that. I didn’t want that person to die in place for Jess. I felt like it would be unfair to kill someone else. I could feel for this person, and I don’t know why, but I felt connected to the killer. Maybe I knew the person? I don’t know. Or maybe it’s because Jess is my best friend and it’s easy to imagine who’d want me dead. Er, her dead. Either way, I can’t let her die in vain. Not like this.
“I’m not asking for you to bring her back. All I’m asking for is closure. Even if it’s just for a second. Please. Just let me talk to her.”
I knew it wasn’t gonna happen. I had to think, is this really what I wanted? Yes, it was. If it’s the last time I ever talk to her, I want her to know that I was there for her. Since the beginning. She was the only person in the world I felt really understood me. She was made for me. I wanted her. But, then she met Chris. Frickin’ Chris. It’s unfair. How could she not see that she belonged with ME?
I know I can’t change the past, but I can change the present. I should confess my feelings for her. I picked up my phone. 3 Missed calls from Jess’s mom. Crap. I called back, anxious to hear from her.
“Nick, Jess is,” She began to cry, “S-she’s.... Just… come to the hospital.”
I left the house, but before I went out the door, I looked at the pill bottle. Was I taking them to forget what happened to Jess? Did I know what happened? I thought about it for a second, then went out the door.
I got to the room, and stood in the doorway, still. Why did this happen to you? I approached her. She was, almost dead. Basically only alive because of the machine. I sat down, firmly grasping her hand.
“Hey, Jess. It’s me, Nick. I know this is a bad time, but I need to tell you something that’s been on my mind.” I stared at her lifeless face; like a vessel with no inhabitant.
“It’s just, ever since I met you, I knew you were the one for me. And I know, I know, you have a boyfriend. And that’s okay. I accept that. But, I just thought, if you’re still even the slightest bit conscious, I wanted you to know I never took our friendship for granted. I just never had you to myself. We never dated, and although I'm still hung up on it, I’ll always cherish what we did have. And for that reason, I’ll never forget you. EVER.” I said to her.
I froze. My memory caught up to speed in that moment. What I said made something click in my head. Then it hit me. I think I figured out the reason why I wasn’t able to be sad about Jess. I told her,
"I’ll never forget you."
It’s starting to come back. The pill bottle on my nightstand, Me blaming Chris immediately, the strange feeling I had about the killer, the inability to really feel for Jess’s death; All of it’s connected. It all comes full circle. It's because I did it.
I killed Jess.