”I don’t have the faintest notion.” My classmate shrugged her shoulder. ”Ask someone else.”
I didn’t. At the time I was nobody but one of nonchalant teenagers and adults, who not only do not show empathy toward other human beings but also feel uncomfortable because of witnessing them weeping tears. I was not the only one, though.
To tell the truth, the news only got to me later, one of students from the class C passed away in the morning. The girl’s name was Zoe and I didn’t know her at all. She was the same age as I, however, we went to different classes since in the secondary school we were divided to four separate classes based on the language we learnt. I attended to A, she attended to C. To be honest, everybody had always been jealous of Zoe because of her beauty, intelligence and flawlessness. Her family was wealthy, she could get whatever she longed for. I have to admit to have imagined what it would feel like if I was her when I glimpsed at her driving to school with her brand-new, pearl white car.
In that moment I saw the same car on the display of my friend’s phone, who became aware of the situation from the webpage of our city. The engine hood got ripped off, the car-body was so unrecognisably wrecked that you were able to see the inside of the car. Her backpack was left sitting on the passenger seat, from which the papers had flown out and the pages of the books were soaking in blood. A chill came over me seeing the terrible scene since I had been learning from the same books, as well. However, the most tragic item was located in the background: a black body bag which both of us were striving to ignore as if neither me nor my friend should accept the fact it is Zoe sleeping in it for an eternity.
“She didn’t die right after the collision.” A girl said with a distant, thin voice. We held our head up and to our greatest astonishment, it was one of Zoe’s closest friends. She was about to get on her bicycle since all of her class was released to go home to cope with grief alone. “She called her parents on the phone and reassured them that everything was going to be fine. Her mum told me she had kept on repeating that simple sentence."
The image made me shiver at once. The girl standing in front of me had not talked to us for about a year at that time due to a pointless conflict we had a long time ago, since then we'd been trying to steer clear of each other. I truly took pity on her. I and my friend were simply sitting in the school yard, the trees were blossoming slowly, birds were quietly chirping their delightful melodies; in one word everything was perfect and still we were aware of the fact that the life of a family, a group of friends was ruined.
“We want to express our sincere condolences, Leah.” I mumbled but my words seemed to be so easy and affected as if I’d just claimed that the weather was nice. I almost felt shame for them. The girl’s response was a rueful smile. She left.
“I feel as if I was choking even though I didn’t even know her.” My friend turned to me desperately. “...as if the fences were getting closer and closer and the walls of the school were about to squeeze me. Imagine the long hours she wasted on learning for nothing. Because she won’t have a job, won’t have a family... She’ll be just... lying under the ground in a cold grave and that’s it. ...who is going to be the next?”
I did not reply, I could not give the proper answer anyways.
The saddest part of death is still relatives having to live afterwards. The cruellest part of it was that the spring ball, which was more like a formal ceremony where all the important people were invited to, took place in our school the following week. While preparing for the event we almost forgot about the loss of our peer until one of the kids from the class C spoke up and told us she would wear black clothes instead of the regular white uniform. Shortly thereafter class A, B and D also volunteered to take the risk of being punished and wear black, as well. We had no reason it was just self-evident to all of us.
Except a boy who was trying to convince everyone not to ruin the event and postpone the mourning since he believed it wouldn't be fair to overshadow the celebration of other pupils who had been preparing for the ceremony for a long time.
“I’m not asking you to participate.” A girl from the class C said. “But don’t force us to pretend everything remained the same and we are carefree.”
In the morning of the event I was staring at myself in the mirror wearing black. I desperately didn’t understand why I was doing it. I didn’t know her, felt sorry for her death but I wasn’t especially sad. I went to school with a lot of doubts and fears which were encompassing me. Nonetheless, the moment I arrived and saw my peers chatting and laughing (even some kids from the class C) I felt relieved. In fact, the ceremony was normal, nobody paid attention to our clothes, some believed we dressed up differently as a sign of doing special tasks. Well, they were right. Now I can declare I’m grateful to Zoe for unifying us and teaching us to show solidarity toward others. Since we, class A, B, D weren’t wearing black to mourn her but to sympathise with the family and the friends of the dead girl. In this way they could release their bottled up painful emotions which had been choking them before. Together we risked ourselves for the solution of a problem that became common and even though I felt vulnerable standing alone in front of the mirror, considering the potential consequences, I didn’t witness the slightest fear when we were together. If the individual does something good, that’s generally love but when you do the same in a community, that’s solidarity and it has a great power over the individuals. However, I only realised it when the boy arguing against grief entered to the hall, holding the flag of our school, proudly marched up to the stage and straightened the collar of his black shirt.