This is just a short one that popped into my head. Enjoy.


By: Catherine Semerjian


It's cold outside, the leaves have just started to turn, but none of us really notice the beauty of nature surrounding us. Without really thinking about it, I pull my thin jacket a little closer to my body, trying to conserve a little heat.

This is quite clichéd, but the silence is deafening. Silence between the five of us isn't unusual--we hardly speak to each other anymore. We've all moved on with our lives and our careers. Even during this yearly get together, our lives outside of this cemetery seem to fall mute into the background, like the cars on the faraway road.

We stare down in silence at the gravestone. He died years ago, but sometimes it still hurts like yesterday.

Sometimes, this ritual of ours is akin to ripping the skin off an old wound, but in a way, it's good for us.

It reminds us that we're not immortal.

* *

Don't get me wrong, we used to think that. As foolish as that seems now, we didn't think anything could hurt us. We were young, out of school, successful and unstoppable. The six of us were such hotshots, I don't understand how the elders around us tolerated our antics. Maybe because they were there before, I don't know.

Our little clique was inseparable. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, victories, even losses. Any reason to go out and party, we embraced wholeheartedly. These guys were my family, because my real one was so far away. I knew that they felt the same. We were at the age when 'hangover' was still just a filthy myth and not an impending reality check. Going out to party until the break of dawn, then being in time for work, looking fresh as a daisy was the norm. Of course, we did take some nights off our crazy schedules to be with our girlfriends, or fiancée in my case. It was the good life and nobody was going to tell us otherwise.

It was bound to happen. The stress of my job combined with my relationship, add to that a non-stop party schedule, and I was a prime candidate for a burnout. People tried to warn me to slow down, but I couldn't hear a word they said. This was my life and I was going to live it up. And I would keep up this schedule any way I knew how.

For something with such an innocuous start, it had a real effect on my life. With my insomnia, I would just take something to get me to sleep. If I was tired in the morning, just grab a quick pick me up and the day flew by. I've been told I don't have an addictive personality, which basically means that what I did to myself, I did with complete control. The others did it too and even those who didn't never ratted. We were just too damned successful to lose.

Ha, control. None of us were ever really in control. We got caught up in this lifestyle. The streets were paved with gold and the money would keep rolling in. All of us were so happy with our lives that we didn't realize we were all heading directly for rock bottom.

* *

One thing or another brought each of us down. Whether it was our careers, there was always some back stabber in the wings, waiting to capitalise on a scandal. Like I said, we were flying so high, that it was only a matter of time before we were shot down. None of us saw it coming and it all seemed to happen in unison.

Once we did see it coming, we fell into the abyss of excess. Everything had to be done to the extreme.

* *

I really thought I was being a good friend, the responsible one. Doing my best friends a favour by making sure they didn't get into a car when they were drunk. Driving them home and letting their significant others take care of them.

If I'd just forced myself to realize that drinking wasn't the only thing that was wrong, maybe things would have turned out different. We might have been able to see some of the signs. Of course, back in the day, things like this were generally kept quiet. It was taboo to even mention drug use. It would have meant instant expulsion. After all, who could trust a junkie?

Somehow, some way, we managed to pull our lives out of the tailspin. We grew up a little bit. Moderation became our motto. And life became even better. The obsession with doing everything life had to offer faded and we learned to appreciate what we did have. It sure beat trying to have everything.

Funny how we always seemed to do everything together. We wasted our lives, we were successful, we matured... we were completely blindsided.

In a way, we were still the same selfish, spoiled hotshots. We didn't notice that one of our members hadn't grown up. He was still living crazy and it cost him.

He was found in his apartment with his face covered in white powder.

* *

The headline might as well have said 'Welcome to Hell, Boys!' because that's what it was. The ultimate proof that we could, in fact, be hurt, we weren't immortal. I couldn't focus, couldn't sleep, it was bad. It was so bad that I had to start taking those pills again just to function. We smoked like chimneys, but our hands always shook. My loving, loyal fiancée didn't want to be associated with me, so she left. My baby brother wound up in the hospital because he couldn't breathe again.

I couldn't stay where I was. There were just too many memories. Besides, I couldn't stand the thought of going back to the lifestyle that had taken away my best friend. So I left and started something completely different.

* *

I look around at the others. In different ways, they show the wear and tear of the life we used to lead. Whether it's external or something on the inside, that's hard to say. Hell, maybe they don't even show any signs of it. Maybe I think I can see flaws because I know they should be there. Weird.

Michael, lead prosecutor. Dennis, head of his own firm. Shawn, teacher (I always knew he'd be a teacher.) Me, Deputy Communications Director for the White House. It doesn't matter in here. Only one thing matters:

Ryan, dead at twenty five.

* *

Shawn looks down at his watch and, without saying a word, turns his back to us and walks out of the cemetery. Dennis follows suit. Michael puts a hand on my shoulder and mumbles something that I can't make out before he leaves me alone as well.

Out of habit, I reach into the pocket of my jacket for a box of cigarettes. There's a single cancer stick in the pocket, partnered with a solitary match. I light up, bring it to my lips and exhale. The smoke looks identical to the last clean breath of air I breathed. I run my hand along the tombstone, sending tendrils of cold all the way up to my wrist.

See you next year, pal.





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