I lost two of my closest friends to a car accident earlier this year. I have seldom felt grief of this magnitude. The significant people in my family are all alive, and never before has the passing of loved ones left me so lonely, confused, and bewildered.
Based on what little I know about what happened that day, I have constructed my own reality, and replayed the events so many times in my head. Every time, I think of a different sequence of events, but all leading to the same outcome- that they escape unscathed. What if they had decided not to drive, but watch a movie at home? What if they got a flat tire and pulled over? There are thousands of such "what if" outcomes I have played in my head again and again. My pain is possibly not bigger than the pain of their family members. I cannot imagine what they are going through. But it feels like this has left a gaping hole in my heart, a hole that may never mend. I often find myself wondering if this is a bad dream, where I will wake up in the morning and realize that none of this happened. Sometimes, I stare at the water blankly, or walk on the streets without direction, and cry. Sometimes, I go through the hundreds of pictures I had taken of them, imagining them to be somewhere in another world throwing parties, feeding an army, and spreading joy.
This incident has shaken me at two levels. First, the loss of such close friends, people with such magnanimous hearts, people I have nothing but happy memories with, is unbearable. Second, knowing that someone would intentionally drive on the wrong side of the freeway towards oncoming traffic in a state of drunkenness is unimaginable. I wish to get inside the darkest recesses of the perpetrator's mind and understand what was he thinking when he took that U-turn on the freeway. When you are drunk, you stay home. The last thing you do is drive, let alone drive on the wrong side of the freeway. I have been so traumatized that I often find myself looking for traffic in the wrong direction when crossing the road. Sometimes, I feel a moment of a disoriented state, not knowing which way the traffic would be coming from.
I don't know how to snap out of this state of stupor. Sometimes, I think that I should write down everything I remember about them, penning down four years worth of memories to immortalize them in my own way. Writing is therapeutic. They have given me nothing but unalloyed joy, and everything I write will be a happy chapter. Each of us who knew them is going though their own personal journey of processing pain and grief. Each of us has our own trove of happy stories.
One day, Mr. Friend was recounting how Mrs. Friend loved to make conversation for hours, and never hung up the phone soon enough. So one morning when she hung up in 45 minutes, Mr. Friend asked who it was and how come the conversation was so short. Mrs. Friend said, "It was a wrong number."
I could not stop laughing, and asked her if it was true. With all earnestness, she told me that the lady on the other side of the line got comforted by her voice, and poured out her heart. The unknown lady was so miserable, visiting her son and daughter-in-law from another country, feeling stuck at their home because none of them talked to the old woman. Such is the magic of my friends. Even complete strangers felt no hesitation opening up their hearts to them.