Memories remind me of the wind. The way it comes and goes, having such power and boldness but pausing whenever it decides to. Never allowing any force to override it’s decision, wind comes. Whether it would be a refreshing breeze or a dangerous storm causing nothing but destruction, wind always comes. On this particular day, I was battling a dangerous storm full of memories and no matter how hard I tried to ignore them, there force overrode my mental strength. I looked around; however, I did not see the present, I saw the past. I did not see the crowds of people standing alarmingly close to me, I saw him. He was running around this very train, dancing to the quiet music played in the back ground. The music that he said was solely played to drain out the awkward silence exchanged between strangers. I must have been crying as I looked around at the past, realizing there was no future with him. My tears felt hot on my face, but they did not remain there long. A stranger wiped them away and sparked up a conversation. My daze was uncontrollable, even the strangers’ eyes reminded me of him. A dark, mesmerizing brown with so much hope, freedom and adventure, those kinds of eyes were rare to obtain. I barely heard the unknown gentlemen as he yet again wiped my fiery tears from my face. The train was becoming more crowded and every person seemed to be off in their own world, like I had been. The stranger asked me once again why I was crying. It did not take much to convince me to tell him about the most recent tragedies in my life. He listened so intently as I told the story that changed everything, in just a series of seconds.
“It was about 2 weeks ago, on a very cold Saturday night. We had gone out to town to have some fun, like we so often had done. We were in a group with 3 other guys, Brody, Mason, Taylor, Josh and myself. We were all planning on heading to a local party to do some dancing, karaoke and eat some free food. Josh had always love dancing although he was not great at it, that never stopped him for dancing everywhere we went.” I laughed as I told the kind stranger, who still continued to listen to me as if he were my paid therapist, instead of a subway acquaintance. I continued, “We arrived at the party around 8 p.m. that night and we did not leave until an hour before midnight. We were driving back home when we passed a river.” My tears began to turn into sobs, the wind had carried the stream of water faster and faster until all the memories came flowing out my eyes and into the strangers’ hands as he wiped them away. I had to pause before speaking again, the collar of my shirt had been a light blue but is now resembling more of a purple because of the number of tears that had fallen upon it. “We passed a river.” I restated after a long series of sobs. “When we passed the river, something had caught Josh’s eye. We kept driving but Josh could not get his mind off of what he saw. So as the driver, Josh turned his small blue Honda around and we headed back to the river. Brody, and Taylor were asleep in the back of the car, Mason was Instagram live streaming and I was riding shot gun.” The memory hit me like a hurricane as I explained it to the man sitting beside me. I remember the Blake Shelton song that was playing, the sound of Mason and Josh’s voices singing along and the feeling of the cold air on my arm as I held it out the window. The stranger had not said a word as I told my story, I had not noticed though, I was too wrapped up on memory.
“Josh had turned the car around and we started back for the river. It was dark but the streets were lite up by the streetlamps and moonlight. I felt pure freedom as I sat in that car with my friends with the windows rolled down.” The feeling of being young is something I can only experience for a small portion of life. I hope I never forget the feeling of young freedom. “We finally made it back to the river with the small parking lot infront of it. There was one streetlight on, illuminated about half of the gravel parking lot with light, the rest was dark. The dock was wooden and the water was still enough that you could see the moon reflected upon it. I looked over at Josh as he put the car in park. His curly, red hair was styled perfectly on top of his head and his brown eyes were sparkling in the light of the streetlamp. I was wondering what he had saw that was so important that we had to turn around for. I looked around and I saw it too. On the dock, laid a teenage girl, no older than fifteen years old. She had brown hair like me but hers was longer and much prettier. She was wearing an over-sized leather jacket and black leggings. She seemed to be alone and asleep on the dock.” The stranger on the subway now sliding comfortably back into his chair preparing for the next part of my story.
“I wondered what Josh intended to do, I did not have time to ask before he had gotten out of the car and began to walk over to her. It was only a few feet away but the lack of light made it hard to see what was happening. I turned down the music to try and hear, what they were saying. I listened very carefully and did not hear anything but a hushed whisper. The girl had sat up and Josh had squatted down, both exchanging words quietly.” The stranger had given up on wiping my tears away and just let them freely flow. While I was telling the story, the man grabbed my wrist and guided me off the train and unto a bench in the subway I must have never stopped talking as he guided me off the train because even today, I struggle to remember exiting that subway. “Josh had stood up and was signaling something to me using hand motions.” I did not understand so I stuck my head out the window to try and get a better view. Eventually Josh, squatted back down beside the girl and my phone began to buzz. Josh had texted me from a few feet away, why hadn’t he just yelled or came back over to the car? I began to see something was not right. I rolled up the windows and opened my phone to read the text message.” The stranger still never saying a word, was holding my hand as if he knew what I was about to tell him.
“The text message read: Be as quiet as possible, call 911 and do not get out of the car. I looked back up at Josh and he too was lying down beside the girl on the dock. I woke up Brody and Taylor and handed them phone along with catching them up to the events leading up to this. I had chills down my back and legs as I read that text message again. I looked around the dock and saw nothing but Josh and the girl. I was filled with fear as I dialed 911 and locked the doors to the car.” The stranger was now holding my hand tighter than before. He spoke for the second time that I could recall. He said, “it is okay now, you’re safe.” I took those words to heart as I continued the story. “The operator answered and then the unthinkable happened. I heard a deafening scream and a splash in the water. I looked up from the phone call to see that the teenage girl had been pushed into the river and Josh was standing between her and another figure holding some sort of weapon. The guys in the back started screaming as they tried to get out of the car to come to his rescue. Although I froze in fear unable to move, think or talk, I lost all ability to unlock car doors. Before I even came to any kind of sorts, the back wind shield had been shattered by another man. Glass flew everywhere, the operator was yelling across the phone, and Josh was yelling for help.”
“Gun shots rang from behind me, someone else flew into the river, the windows were being shattered and I did nothing. I could do nothing; all I did was sit there and observe. Darkness crowded me physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt as though I was floating in a dream, as if this was not real life. I wish it would have only been a dream. Before I knew it my window had also been shattered and knocked me out, leaving me unconscious.” The gentlemen looked at me with terrified eyes and asked me, “Son, is this all true?” I told him that it was, every detail was correct.
“I woke up on the ground, scared, confused and cold, very, very cold. My head was bleeding and my vision was blurred. I was surrounded by silence, I felt so alone. However, I was not alone, the teenage girl sat inches away from my head, trying to stop the bleeding with her shirt. Her stomach was covered in goosebumps and her face was almost blue because of the freezing temperatures. My head hurt unlike it had ever hurt before. It was deep and sharp pain, that cannot be understood unless experienced. I moved my head to look around for the others, the girl held the shirt to my head as I rotated it. I saw Mason, Taylor and Brody. Mason on the phone near Josh’s blue car, parked under the streetlamp. The car’s windows had been shattered and the exterior was dented, I later found out that the interior looked worse. The grey fabric seats were covered in a layer of blood and glass was in every crevasse. Mason had a few cuts on his face along with a multitude of bruises covering his bare chest. Taylor was lying beside me; he too was unconscious and bleeding from his head. Brody was bleeding from his arm and his lip but was not badly injured, he was mending Taylor’s head with Mason’s shirt. I felt relieved after I saw all my friends were okay, it was not until that moment I remembered Josh. I whipped my body up in panic, startling the girl. I looked around, flinging fresh blood all over the gravel and girl. Brody yelled at me to lay back down but I refused to listen. Brody had been crying, I noticed because of the red and puffiness that his eyes obtained.” The stranger still listened; my heart felt numb but the tears still rolled down my face.
“As I looked around, I managed to locate Josh. That moment changed my life. Josh was lying on the ground surrounded by a pool of his own blood; his chest and face were purple and his hair was wet. He lied alone near the dock. Once I saw him, my heart dropped like someone’s stomach would while riding a roller coaster. I tried to stand up to get to his body, but I fell over, right about at that time Mason held me to the ground by my shoulders. Josh was dead.” The stranger embraced me with a hug as I finished my story. “Mason then started to apply pressure to my head and told the girl to put her leather jacket over Josh’s head. He must have learned her name because he called her, Jax, while directing her. When the girl returned, she was crying, her beautiful brown hair was wet and her green eyes were filled with terror. Her stomach was now a faded blue and covered in goosebumps, her lips were a vibrant purple. Taylor was still unconscious when the police officers and medical personnel arrived.” For the first time, the stranger asked me a question about my story. “What exactly happened to Josh that night?” He asked cursorily.
I answered him with, “When he went to talk to Jax, she told him that she had notice some men in the woods with weapons and decided to lay on the dock so they wouldn’t see her. Josh decided to do the same and call for help instead of trying escape. It was not until the doors of the car were locked that the men decided to attack. There were three men, two having weapons. One man went after Josh and Jax. One man came and broke the windows of the car and the last man was just firing shots in the air for the “ultimate fear factor.” Josh pushed Jax in the river so the man could not stab her, instead he ended up stabbing Josh in the upper arm and he began bleeding out. The man then shoved Josh in the river and ran. Taylor and I immediately lost consciousness but Mason and Brody chased off the men and mended the girl and attempted CPR on Josh. When they were sure that he was gone, they began to focus on me and Taylor and stopping the bleed.” The stranger nodded and pointed to the wrap on my head and asked if that was from the window. I answered that it was. The subway friend now had tears in his eyes, I was completely unaware of my surroundings until then. We had exited off the train and made it back to the subway in which I intended to end up. My light blue shirt was covered in tears and my brown floppy hair was extremely messy. My blue eyes must have been vibrant because of the red that came from crying so much. The stranger interrupted my deep thoughts when he introduced himself, “Oh by the way, my name is Al.” “Andy, thank you for listening to my story.” I muttered in response to him. “Son, can you take me to the river,” he asked me. My heart seemed to do a back- flip at the request. I hesitated, I may not be ready for that, but that’s the least I could do for this miracle of a man. After a few seconds of hesitation, I agreed. We headed out of the subway and got into my car that was parked a few blocks down. It was 6 o clock in the morning and the sun was beginning to rise. I was having flash backs from the night of Josh’s death while driving down the road heading towards the river. Al got out of the car first when we arrived, I did not even want to be there. However, I managed to get out of my car and follow the stranger to the dock at which my had changed. My heart ached and I Began to cry to yet again, chills went throughout my entire body and nausea filled my stomach.
Al turned to me and said, “I know you are thinking about everything you lost here but come to me and look at everything I gained.” I was very confused at his statement but I walked over to him and looked at the place Josh had laid.
Al then spoke something totally unexpected, “It was about two weeks ago, I was drunk and standing over there.” He pointed to the wooded area near the dock. “We saw a little girl but did not intend to harm her, we just wanted to mess around. One of my friends had just gotten out of jail and was angry about life, my other friend was too drunk to understand a thing he was doing and I was too moldable by peer pressure.” I was focusing very hard on the words, that he was speaking. “I was one of the men that killed your friend.” I looked at Al in total terror, I tried to run but tripped and fell, leaving me at his mercy. “Please don’t hurt me,” I begged over and over again. Reportingly, he responded that he was sorry and was not going to do any harm to me. I decided to allow him to finish his story.
“We saw Josh come and heard him tell Jax that 911 was coming and my friend panicked. He did not want to go back to jail, so he told us to attack. At first, I refused but then he threated my life and I had no choice, so I fired shots. However, I came back later on before you had gained consciousness and helped the boys pull Josh out of the river. I told them what had happened and they told me that Josh would have forgave me so they did too. I then asked them why Josh would extend such forgiveness and they said because he loved Jesus, and it was at that moment that I accepted Christ. Standing right here.” Al walked over to the place Josh’s body had laid and pointed to the place on the ground. I gained the world because of the loss of this man. I will be forever grateful.”
My heart went from ache to rejoicing when I heard how the loss was also a gain. I could not but help hug this man as we looked at the river with such a beautiful sun rise reflecting upon it. Th last time I had looked at the river the moon was reflecting and now the sun rise was, resembling how the night became a new beginning.
Written by: Layla Koontz
Edited by Aimee Killette