The Afterglow

Megumi Jindo

Megumi Jindo

"Don't go," I told the light.

This was my fifth time I said that and the light was my friend, and she had to go because she was sick. Why did she have to go? She could not leave me alone, by myself.

"Let go," she said.

"No."

No, I did not want to let go. I did not want to be all by myself, in this dark, haunted life. And she was the only thing that was always there for me, always brightened up a day, a night.

"Please don't go," I said again.

I gripped on the bottom of her navy shirt. She turned around, looking at me, face pale, lips chapped, eyes hollow and dark circles under her eyes. Her dark, straight hair rustled as the wind blew forward to where we were standing, on my doorstep at night.

Her mouth turned into a grim line as she said, "Come on, let go."

"No."

So she yanked out of my grip, turned around, and said, "I need to go to get better and I told you that a number of times. The rehabilitation center will help, okay? Don't worry, I'll be back and then we'll be able to have another day in the sun, looking at the sunset on the mountains, and we'll actually be able to talk."

I started to open my mouth but she cut me off. "Actually, talk. Instead of me, wincing in pain every few minutes." Noticing the look on my face, she added, "And, you might be fine with me being how I am now, but I'm not, and I can see that you don't like it either."

I shook my head and started to open my mouth again to speak but she just gave me the look and continued, "I know. I know that outside you might be happy being with me but I know that inside, you want me to get better—go so that I can actually talk, play, have fun with you again, and even paint. So, I'll go. I'll go to get better for you and for me, okay?"

I bit my lip, trying not to spill any tears that were bubbling, and nodded. I feared that speaking would break the tears.

She looked at my eyes and sighed. "I won't die or anything. It's only for three months." For now, was the unspoken word. And we both knew how dire her condition was. She was like an older sister, the one who watched over me, the one who whispered "I love you" till the sadness turned to feeling moved, picked me out of everyone, helped me keep going in my darkest days. "Get up, keep fighting, it's not the end" she would repeat, or when I felt like everything was slipping away, she was my tether, the one who held onto me, knowing I was in there, somewhere. I would not lose her. No, not her. But every time we got together, she would always be in some kind of pain and I ached for my friend who was in pain but I also missed how things were before this disease dawned on her.

But I would let go for my friend.



As my mom drove in her silver car, the sun reflected on the car window and I saw forests and seas pass by. The seas sparkling, the birds flying in the air, screeching. Today, it was just my mom, and me since she thought I needed a stress-free break. The car ride was quiet, the peaceful kind with "Afterglow" by Leroy Sanchez on the speakers, on repeat. I looked at the reflection of myself in the window, brown hair, light brown eyes, full pink lips, long-sleeved brown turtleneck, and black jeans. I suddenly looked down and traced the hand-painted daisies on my pants—artwork by my friend. Was she okay? Way better? And those thoughts lingered with me as the sun followed me all the way through the ride.



That fifth week, I suddenly turned around as my mom ran down from upstairs, eyes alarmed. She said one word and I followed suit, quickly, into the car. We drove to the rehab center. When we got there, it seemed that my best friend had only a few minutes left of her life. I quickly sat down next to her, gripped her hand, oblivious to a painted canvas that laid next to the bedside. My only friend was about to die and I could not stop it. So I just held her hand, her family surrounding us, tears in their eyes as well. Nothing was said as she took one last breath and slipped into the void that had been waiting for her. Sun streamed through the window, the lights were off, and she was illuminated with the rays of light, glowing.



Holding the painted canvas of us, on the mountains, looking at the sun rising, I cried. I cried on the way home, the sun following me again. I cried about all the things we could not, we would not do anymore. We would not talk anymore. We would not laugh together, on the grass, laying down, looking at the clouds. We would not march angrily to the teacher when we got a bad grade on the test, demanding to know why we failed. We would not have the moments where we free-drove in the sun, the top of her white car window down, music blasting. And I knew it would end like this. All the signs pointed to it. All the books of friendships signaled it. I had known but I had hoped. As these thoughts flew through my head, I hugged the canvas tighter, as if it was my lifeline, tears spilling. I watched the world go by and I held on. I held on to those memories as I closed my eyes, felt the sun on my skin.