I didn’t see her. I just heard the scream. I can’t imagine anyone else would have recognised her scream, but I had been listening to her every day since we were five. I’d heard her scream before. Not often, but once or twice over the years.
I was in the middle of an exam, near the end of the year in the eleventh grade when I heard that scream, and the last time I would ever hear her speak. I ran without thinking. I ran out of the classroom (completely ignoring my teacher as I passed) and down the stairs. The closest stairs were the ones that ran down the centre of the school. Had I been looking, I would have seen that the door to the roof was unlocked. Had I been looking, I would have immediately blamed myself. I found the combination to the door to the roof of the school, just the year before. I figured it out, and I was the one who sneaked up there with her the first time. If I had seen the open door when I ran past, then I might have stopped. I might not have kept running. I might have stopped where I was and never left that place.
But as it happened, I ran straight past, with only one thing on my mind: Celia.
Celia is, I suppose, the great star-crossed love of my life. Star-crossed because she couldn’t love me back. Star-crossed because she didn’t know, and had no reason to suspect, that I ever loved her as anything more than a friend. Star-crossed because she liked boys. And in her eyes, I was just her straight best friend. I never got the chance to tell her that I didn’t fall in love with a gender, I fell in love with people, and that’s why I fell in love with her. Because as people go, Celia is the most beautiful human being I have ever met.
It took me ten years to realise I was in love with her. We’d gone to watch a movie we’d both been excited for, just over a year before… As it is with watching movies, you kind of forget about everything else, for an hour and a half, two hours. She was completely lost in the screen, and I remember so clearly looking away, and seeing her there next to me, her silhouette in the darkened room, and hardly being able to draw my eyes away. I fell in love with who she was without even realising, and then that day I looked at her, and saw her in that light, and never wanted to look away. When you know someone that well, and have seen them happy, and angry, and scared, and excited, and exhausted, and elated, and every other sliver of the emotional spectrum, then when you look at them, you can see more than just their features, but you see them, written all over their face, in a language only you can read. That night in bed, I just lay awake thinking about how I was in love with someone who would never love me back.
I was always waiting for the right time to tell her. I talked to another friend about it, after making him swear an oath of secrecy, and all he really managed to say is that there is no good time. There is no good time. But either way, I waited. And I wish I told her. I fucking wish I told her.
When I ran out the front of the school on May 23rd 2013, my heart stopped for a moment. In fact, for that moment, everything stopped. The world ceased to turn, just for one moment.
Because when I ran out the front of the school on May 23rd 2013, Celia was lying motionless on the tarmac.
When I think about it now, I have to accept that the earth spun on, and people were born, and people died, and couples kissed, and couples broke up, and people got married. Some people will remember that day as the happiest day of their lives.
I ran to her. Or maybe I just appeared at her side, because I don’t remember moving. I do remember trying. I remember rolling her onto her back, and seeing how covered in blood she was. I remember screaming at some faceless person who had followed me out to call 911. I remember being the first person to get to her. I remember feeling for her pulse, and listening for some sign of breathing. Some sign that she was still with me, that I hadn’t lost her. I remember how she still felt warm, but it was a lie. I remember doing CPR frantically, desperately, uselessly, until an ambulance came. Why was I doing CPR, and not someone else? I remember a paramedic pulling me off her. I don’t remember screaming and crying, although I have no doubt I did both. What I do remember is them lifting her… her body onto a stretcher and covering her… or it up.
I might have blacked out. Or maybe I just don’t remember anything of what happened next.
I broke into her locker later. I took some of her things. Her family didn’t want them, and I didn’t want to let them go. I took the clothes she kept there and her perfume. It still smelled like her, in there. I never found a note, or message. I never found out why.
But mostly, I never told her I loved her. I never said. After she died, I said the words hundreds of times; in the shower, in bed, at school, by her grave, on the bus – I love you Celia, I love you. But however many times I said it, and am saying it still, it won’t make up for the words left unsaid. The words I left unsaid.