I was the last person to sit beside her. In that moment, I hope that she felt warm and safe; loved and carefree. I hope that she felt happy. Together, we were all singing. Loudly — like 18 year olds do when everything is right in the world, and nobody is watching. We were in the back seat of Andrea’s car. Driving back from that restaurant on the beach — the one with the big wooden deck overlooking Lake Erie. In summer, we would have enjoyed the lakefront breezes but it was December. The icy winds had started to come in, so we sat indoors and probably made too much noise. We were a big group — three car loads of teenagers. Out for an evening. We both had the house salad. End of term was close. University applications were coming due. Denise and I were both trying to get our calculus grades up. Limits and differentials.
I remember the song. And the explosion. And darkness and the cold. My friend Kenny. His voice telling me it was going to be okay. An ambulance. My parents rushing in. I didn’t know. There was an accident. Denise? I asked. Was she okay? She had been right beside me.
Thirty years ago tonight. She was right beside me.
She always will be.