Two phone calls one right after the other. I knew better than to let it go to voice message. Something was wrong. With that second ring everything I had thought I’d known about life was about to come to a crashing halt. The next ten minutes of that phone call I wish I never had to pick up were words and sobs that I can still hear in the distance as I look back on it. The timing of memories is a bitch. They’ll strike at moments that you’d rather not feel a stinging stab of sadness. It’s hard to control. I had rushed to the stairs, clutching the phone in my hands as he broke the news of the accident. There was nothing but confusion running through the invisible telephone lines while he recounted the news he had the unfortunate job of breaking. I slumped onto the steps that led up to my mom who was now frantic with worry. I had to inform her as I was still trying to process what I was hearing on the other end of that call. I kept repeating “no” as she took the phone from me. I was at a loss of how to respond to the situation and I did all I could think of doing – that was to run. I ran down the steps, grabbed my key and took off out the door. Somewhere in my stumbling around to retrieve my belongings I shouted to a worried parent, brother, sister and stepdad that I had to just go. I needed to go. I didn’t know where or to whom but I had to leave. My legs shook against the gas pedal in what I assume was a state of shock. I was wearing a blue slouchy shirt. One of my favorite shirts. I still own it, but every time I look at it all I can see is the tears that spilled out onto it for the following 24 hours. I managed to pull over and make a phone call. I kept repeating I love you I love you because I needed them to hear me. I do. Things were and still aren’t perfect with us, but regardless, I still do. I got back in touch with my dad who had moments before told me what had happened. We both knew I was in no condition to drive and I reassured him that I was only minutes away from home. I had lied and told him I was going to turn right back around, but I knew that going home just yet was not good for me either. I didn’t want to face family members yet. I didn’t want my mom to embrace me in a hug yet. It would make it permanent. I went to the store to get cereal. I needed it anyway and I just needed any face other than someone who was going to be dealing with the grief of the aftermath. I remember the cashier asking me if I had allergies and I shook my head no and started to bawl at the register. Thankfully, she was someone I had grown to know and she stopped the line of people and gave me a hug. I managed to inform her about why I was sobbing into her shoulder and she understood. Everyone in the line understood. We all know this reality a little too well. I will always be forever grateful to her and the many others of that day that took the time to ensure I was alright and the safety of my return home. I am also sorry for the amount of snot I blubbered into the arms of complete strangers. I finally drove back to find silence among the storm. No one knew what to say. There were no words that could fix the hole we all now faced. After a brief talk, everyone left to give me some time to collect myself. I never got around to it. I sat on the couch with my hand touching the floor. I watched as I brushed my fingers back and forth among the ground. I started talking in my thoughts asking for a sign. I needed to know. I wanted to try. I had nothing to lose. As soon as I did my puppy ran over and sat by my side. Each time he left I would think again and he’d come running back. I spaced it out to see if would still work. It did and I held onto the notion that someone had heard me. I didn’t know what else I could do. Hours passed and nothing changed. I still sat and sat and did some more sitting. No phone call came. No wake up pinch. Nothing was happening. I secretly believed that it couldn’t be true. I waited for someone to tell me otherwise. No one ever did. I put on any movie I could find. I made the stupid mistake of choosing inside out for the first one. I was in even more tears by the middle. Monsters University was the second. I guess I thought that if I kept playing kids movies that it would switch my life into one. There is always a happy ending in a kids film. My life wasn’t going to be left like this. I wish I had been right. I kept the lights on all night long. Shutting them off meant the possibility of falling asleep. Morning would come and I’d have to deal with this new change. If I just kept them open I wouldn’t have to face it. I feared sleep. It meant acceptance. I made it to the point of exhaustion and my body had no other choice than to give in. For a brief second when waking up that next morning I thought it had all been a bad nightmare. Then I saw that I still had that blue shirt on that had been wrinkled in the midst of that awful September day. This was it. My cousin was gone and for the first time in my life I knew that nothing is guaranteed. We know and yet we take it for granted until something bad occurs that we have no power in changing. Panic and my chest unite when I hear double rings. It’s usually an unknown number or a business call, but there is a part of me that wants to pick up the phone and shout for them to stop. Shouldn’t they know not to? Don’t they know what it could imply? No, they don’t. Because life goes on unaffected by heartbreaks. The crowds don’t stop and the noise doesn’t weaken. You’re left standing there, unsure on what comes now. You think you’ll have a second to catch up, take a breath and figure out how to rebuild, but as soon as you do life collides back into you asking what’s next?