How one summer illustrated the strength of grief and the importance of defeating it

By Aashi Venkat and Divya Venkataraman

I met her last summer; her seemingly misplaced optimism made my head spin and my world turn. She was the bright light illuminating my then-muted mind, making the dreary environment of rehab gleam. We were discharged in early August, but I decided to break everything off on that day. If I could ever spare any love for someone else, I’d need to fully love myself first — and she’d need to do the same. Friendship bracelets snipped off, phone numbers deleted and social medias blocked — I cut myself off entirely.

But now, staring down at the text from her older sister, my mind goes numb. 

It can’t be true — it can’t be true. I had seen her last week on her friend’s Instagram, her skin was no longer pale. 

She looked… positively radiant.

But maybe it’s a sick joke. Her sister always had been into dark humor — she’s infatuated with sitting and laughing under the salty rain of my tears — but we hadn’t spoken in months

But maybe it’s my fault. I broke things off with her, didn’t I? But I did that to help her, so she would no longer have to live with my looming cloud of depression. 

But maybe, just maybe, it’s hers

She was lucky enough to be given such a beautiful gift, such a beautiful and fresh start, and what did she do? She threw it all away. And yes, I’m the one who broke up with her. I can’t possibly know what she was thinking when she did it. But I’m mad. I’m mad that she didn’t ask for help. I’m mad that I couldn’t talk to her once more. I’m mad that she would do this to her loved ones — I’m mad that she would do this to me. And I’m utterly enraged that something in her head convinced her that this was a good idea.

Because it was not.

And yet, maybe she had every right. I remember our conversation the day before she was discharged. 

“I’m honestly glad to be going home,” she said. “The food here is disgusting.”

“But you’re never going to see me again! Unless you come visit.”

“I totally would. Maybe I’ll just buy a pack of cigarettes—”

“No, how about we don’t joke about relapses just yet? It’s way too soon for that.”

“— not to smoke, you dork. If anyone sees me even holding a cigarette, I’ll be back in here before you can get out. Nothing’s going to come between us, don’t you understand that?” 

We were perfect for each other, but I was stupid enough to let my doubt come between us — it’s my fault she did this. If I didn’t snip off those friendship bracelets, if I didn’t delete her number… if I didn’t cut her off entirely, she’d still be sitting next to me, drawing circles around my wrist. 

It helped her — I helped her — more than the cigarettes ever could.

How could I have been so stupid, so naive, to truly believe that distancing myself from her would help her get better?  

I can still make it better — I can join her and we can remain together for eternity. Just like it was always meant to be. Just like I always should have done. 

And I came so close too. My skin went cold at the touch of the gun. As my index finger traced the trigger, like her fingers once did my wrist, I found myself pulling my finger away as I catch a glimpse of something green and yellow in the corner of my eye. I shakily set the gun back down on my table, picking up the remains of our snipped off friendship bracelets instead.

“Do you swear to not dance on the stars until mother nature deems you truly fit to do so?”

“That is the most cliché thing I have ever heard,” I said, grinning from ear to ear. “But yeah, yeah, whatever.” 

She tied the green and yellow string bracelet around my wrist and then held up her identical bracelet as well, beaming with joy and pride. 

I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. As long as I had those bracelets, however cut up they may be, I wouldn’t do it. Because I have so much to live for, for myself — for her. No, I couldn’t let that all go away. 

And when it naturally happens, when my time inevitably comes to an end, I’ll find her. We can have our eternity together — just not yet.

Over a year has now passed since the day we met, but a mere eight months have passed since the day she overdosed. 

I now stand by her grave and place down bright yellow sunflowers — those always were her favourite — as I recall the moments we shared last summer. Her spirit and memory are what allow me to pursue the life we dreamed of having together, but I will never forget the summer where my head spun and the world turned all because of one person and her seemingly-misplaced optimism. 

I promise, I will never forget last summer.

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