“Look at the coin, ladies and gentlemen. You see it, correct?”
“You do realize it’s just me here, right?”
“It’s called setting the scene, you need to make the mood good. Now, for my last and final act, I’m going to make this coin disappear.”
“Why is this your final act? You’ve only done two so far.”
“One, two, three -”
I stand by your casket. It’s pouring rain. Everyone seems to have turned out to your funeral, all our peers and most of our teachers. Your mother dabs at her eyes with a lace handkerchief while the priest drones on about the sanctity of life. Everyone is crying, the rain mixing with tears on faces. I touch the wreath on your casket, probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing you again. Time to take another trip back down memory lane.
You ran into me on the playground in fifth grade. I remember that, the way your hair stuck up enough to catch the sunlight, how you blocked out enough sun for other boys to laugh and whisper during gym class. We were the two slowest people in gym class, you and me together, struggling through the warmup laps while everyone else had already moved on to pushups and situps. You gave me your Oreos, and showed me how you could make them disappear just using a look right out that window, I just saw a buffalo when you weren’t wearing long sleeves. Your mom came to your soccer games - I remember that much. You reluctantly gave me permission to talk to her, and in return I ignored the Oreo crumbs that would fall out of your sleeves right after we had finished eating lunch
We were friends during middle school too, braving all the comments about cooties and dating to sit together at lunch. You still had Oreos, but you also had carrot sticks, and you were starting to play enough soccer outside of school that girls would pretend to be my friend to come over and watch you. Even through all of that - through the clumsy flirting and you smiling benevolently on - we were still friends.
Freshman year - I had a new group of friends, girls who also didn’t care much about food chains or social boundaries, and you sat with the soccer team. You stopped saying hi to me in the halls, too busy paying attention to the girls hanging off of your arm. Eventually, you stopped seeing me. I did the same.
So I first saw you - the highschool you, the new and improved you - at one of the football games. You were on the sidelines for a brief second - light catching that golden hair - as you passionately argued with your coach about something. God knows, you practically carried that team to States on your back, and everyone knew it there. The girls with paint delicately streaked across their faces, the college scouts - everyone there was there to see you. I was no exception. I had been dragged out to the games by one of my friends - Come on, it’ll be fun - and couldn’t take my eyes off of you. Golden Boy.
The afterparty was carried by you, too. Standing in the center of the room on the table, loudly proclaiming how big of a nerd you were in middle school, how you used to take magic classes, how those days were so long ago, making everyone laugh and the basement shake. I remembered those classes, how you loved them so much, how you used to show me all the tricks you could do while I would stare in awe. And here you were, declaiming them, saying that they were a waste of money and I never should have taken them, god I was so awkward.
Except those magic classes were much more useful to you than anyone but me knew. I saw you take that pill out. I saw you crush it into that girl’s drink - do you remember her at all? The one who refused to drink alcohol because guys, have you ever had a hangover before? The one with the bangs who was clearly so far gone on you, on the way you moved and talked, the way you delicately crushed it and then returned all evidence back to your pocket.
I saw the way you offered to drive her home, the way she hesitated and then politely accepted, because he’s the golden boy of the school and he’s really hot and maybe I can score a goodnight kiss on the cheek. You escorted her out so delicately, her already stumbling, and I knew that I was the only one who had seen anything odd, the only one who would notice when she lost weight and then gained it and then dropped out of school.
Actually, that’s not quite right. First, she gained some weight, then she lost it. Then she didn’t gain or lose anymore, because she was dead. You went to her funeral and cried with everyone else about why she would do it, why an honors student who had already been accepted to Stanford would kill herself, and I watched you. Nothing out of the ordinary for you there - all the girls were already staring at you, the way your hair caught the light like a halo.
An angel from above. That’s what her mother called her, the way she made “our lonely lives so much brighter.” I looked at you, crying in the second row, perfectly positioned so everyone else in the church could see your jawline as a solitary tear streaked down, and I knew that you weren’t sorry at all.
You see, there was one problem with your perfect crime. You had a witness, and that witness wasn’t going to take anything to the police. What evidence was there? Golden Boy, with dozens of colleges scratching their heads on how big of a scholarship they could give you, versus me.
I knew there were more of them out there, not breathing a word. Why would they? It was Golden Boy, and I’m sure you could’ve conjured up dozens of witnesses who could swear that no, he had a girlfriend, she wasn’t even at the party, I’m lying through my teeth because he said that he would set me up with the girl of my dreams. Or maybe they couldn’t breathe anymore. Who knew? Only you knew, and you weren’t telling or you’d forgotten them by now. Why would you remember? Just another night with another crying girl.
I still knew where you lived. I had played board games with you on the sidewalk in front of your house. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.
Then, at another afterparty, you mentioned how you and your parents were going to be out of town on a Friday.
That Friday, I walked over to your house. Your screen door still popped out of the frame the way it used to, and I waltzed upstairs to your room. I took some time to mourn the person you used to be and then went to work.
Yes, I found the bottle of alcohol in your dresser. Yes, I also found the stash of alcohol in your closet. I knew you were going on a road trip soon, and I also found the alcohol in the glove compartment of your car. I took some of your pills. You wouldn’t have noticed anyway - there were too many of them for that. Poetic justice.
On another road trip, this time alone - feeling sleepy? Maybe it was those swigs of alcohol you took, one from the glove compartment and one alone in your room. It’s raining now. The car swerves, jerks back into the lane, and then swerves again, taking a tree with it and exploding with a satisfying boom. By the time your parents had driven back to check why they were getting frantic calls from their neighbors, there wasn’t any alcohol in your room. Just in the pond two blocks over.
Back to the present, where it is also raining. The priest wraps up with a final, dramatic flourish and everyone begins to shuffle away, back to the sanctuary of the cars. I take out something from my pocket and leave it on the coffin lid, securely tucked inside the wreath. An Oreo.
“If it’s still there, why can I not see it?”
“It’s magic, silly. You can’t see it once it’s gone.” You laughed, and the sun decided to come out from behind a cloud at that moment. A halo.