Such A Waste

Majestic Image by Kim Marius Flakstad

"Majestic" Image by Kim Marius Flakstad

I pulled into the Cook’s driveway, which was half-filled with well-wishers cars, and parked my father’s station wagon in the usual spot. I had been “going” with Melissa Cook for most of my senior year of high school, and had known her for a much longer time than that. Melissa had always tried to fashion herself after her father, who was stoic and introverted. She drove herself hard, but somehow never quite felt she lived up to her father’s image. Melissa was much too sensitive to be stoic. That was why I was so worried about her, after what had happened to her brother. It was just as my mother had said: “Suicide is such a waste.”

I knocked on the back door, and after a minute or so she opened it. I asked her how she was and she replied with her usual, “Tired.” Everything looked normal. Melissa looked and sounded like she always did; her face betrayed no emotion. But her movements were jerky. She lurched about the kitchen like a wind-up soldier wound too tight. She had been home all day standing before a never-ending line of well-wishers and mourners, and she obviously needed a rest. So I asked if she wanted to go out for a while.

Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting under the pavilion of Austin-Lincoln Field. The park was damp and deserted, and the wind smelled of rain. Our only light came from a lonely street lamp standing fifty yards down the road.

Melissa had already told me how Gary’s wife had walked out on him the night before, and how he had just left his car running with the windows up and quietly gone to sleep inside. Her voice was very dry, and she sat stiffly upright as she spoke.

“I never cried. I thought I was going to, but…” The wind whistled through the metal rafters, and a few drops of rain rapped lightly on the tin roof. “I hope it thunders,” she said. “I love it when it thunders.”

I looked down at her dark silhouette. “When the time is right, it’ll thunder.”

For a long time, Melissa said nothing. She just sat watching the wind-tormented trees swing to and fro. I watched too, as the ash leaves flashed back and white, reflecting the sparse light. When Melissa finally spoke again, her words were almost inaudible over the sound of the rain driving on the roof.

“You should have seen my father this morning when they told us,” she said very quickly. “He just sat there for a long time. He didn’t say a word. Then he went out and worked in the yard all day. He never said a thing. I think he blames himself. He’s so quiet. He…” She folded into herself and began to cry.

Somewhere down the valley, a peal of thunder echoed off the hills.

I wrapped my arms around her shoulders, rested my chin on the top of her head, and slowly rocked her. Her crying didn’t last long. When she was through, she apologized to me; she said that a person shouldn’t show her emotions like that. I told her that she was wrong, and that she should never be afraid to share her feelings with a friend.

Silently, we sat and watched as the storm slowly blew itself out. When it was all over, we walked back to the car and I drove Melissa home under a clearing night sky. When we arrived at her house, I caught a glimpse of Mr. Cook through the kitchen door. The look on his face was haunting. His cheeks were hallowed, his face was drawn, and his eyes had a glassy, far-away cast to them. My car’s heater couldn’t drive away the chill I felt on the ride home that evening.

Melissa and I never talked about Gary again after that night. There was no need to. We continued dating through the remainder of my senior year, the experience of that evening binding us closer together. Shortly before I left for college, we went our separate ways, our lives diverging down life’s different paths.

The last time I visited Melissa, I caught another glimpse of Mr. Cook as he worked in his back yard. His face was no longer drawn, but his eyes still had that same distant cast to them. He never spoke of his feelings for Gary during the time that I knew him. He never found the healing that comes from releasing those feelings to others.

And that really is such a waste.


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