By the age of seventeen, I’d already gotten too intimately acquainted with the transient nature of life. I hadn’t even pulled through the teenage years before I lost my best friend, my first admirer, and my father.
None of these losses was what one could call a natural course of life. Don’t get me wrong, death is natural, and I’m not going to dispute that fact. What I want to stress is that all the people I lost during what should have been a beautiful coming-of-age time, weren’t supposed to die, at least, not at the time it happened.
My best friend was unique. She was a petite girl with an opinion of her own. When I came to a new school – an absolutely frightening experience for a nine-year-old – she was the first who started talking to me. She offered to sit together during classes, introduced me to other pupils, and generally took me under her wing. Because of her, the adaptation period turned out to be if not exactly easy but definitely not frightening.
Anna was clever. She had an answer to every question. You know the type: no matter what you ask, that person answers with confidence. At the same time, she wasn’t arrogant or overbearing. For a couple of years, we were inseparable at school. She knew my infatuation with horses, and for my birthday, she gave me a crystal horse. Almost three decades later, that horse still sits on a shelf between the family photos. Whereas Anna, for the same length of time, is in a better world.
The accident was almost nothing. Such things happen every day. Our classmate, somewhat a more disadvantaged and troubled boy among generally not overly well-off and carefree kids, punched Anna into her stomach during a break. He didn’t intend to harm her; it was a part of school children’s interaction. She was taken to a nurse, and then she disappeared. She didn’t come to school for weeks. And then, when one day I called her, Anna’s mother told me that she died.
It was the most devastating news I’d received in my life by that time. To be honest, I didn’t even know how to react. I don’t remember what I told Anna’s mother, or if I even managed to utter the words of condolences. I only remember how I tried to tell my aunt about the news I received, and how I failed to do it coherently.
The concept of death is not easy to wrap one’s mind around at any age, but I think you won’t argue with the fact that for a teenage girl it’s almost impossible. I think that it was after Anna died that I had started writing. I had to find something to anchor myself to sanity by, and my lifesaving ring happened to be made of words.
It seems, dear Diary, that the lifesaving ring analogy came to me here not by accident. I won’t pretend that a teenage-me committed to paper every date – she didn’t, and it saddens the today-me every time I think about it – but I believe that Anna died in the year when the MS Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea, in September 1994. Do you remember, dear Diary, that in my first ever diary entry I told about MS Estonia? I won’t repeat that sad story now – almost thirty years later we do have Wikipedia, after all. But I still remember – so vividly! – how shocked I was by that devastating story of the modern Titanic. Almost nine hundred people lost their lives that day. And up until today, there are more questions than answers about the tragedy.
It was in late 1995-early 1996 when the boy who liked me died. I am fairly sure about the time because of an association – again. They showed “Twin Peaks” on TV for the second time ever that year. I couldn’t miss the rerun! Dear Diary, I know that you realise the momentous significance I’m implying here. Back then, you watched the shows when they showed them on TV. Not at any moment, you feel like re-watching your favourite movies or series. And when they showed – you watched.
I remember how quiet the house was. My mom and aunt had already gone to bed, not waiting until I switch off the television. It was past midnight when I, mesmerised by the music and the sinister scene I knew perfectly the outcome of but still was trembling with fear and excitement (“Twin Peaks” fans, you’ll understand!), I saw the lights blinking outside the window. I went to look and saw an ambulance. I hadn’t seen much more that night, but the next day I found out that the boy I knew died after taking a drag on a cigarette after glue-sniffing.
He was a nice person, his disposition so heart-warmingly sunny despite his family being poor and him not having a lot of things to feel happy about. I knew that he liked me. He had never told me about it outright but he said things that hadn’t left any doubts in that regard. I hadn’t cared about boys and relationships at that time. My coming-of-age story is void of almost anything light and romantic. Anna’s death was only one reason for me being like that. Dear Diary, I couldn’t but wonder – what if I treated that boy differently. Would the relationship between us help him to escape death?
Losing my father was the next experience I had to go through shortly after. But, dear Diary, I probably better stop here, since my story has gotten too grim. Next time, I promise to tell you about some sunshine that I’d had plenty of in my childhood.