I remember begging my friend, Carolyn, to come rollerskating....
I was 16, and I loved rollerskating, and I loved rollerskating with Carolyn. She would laugh at all my jokes, and hers were even funnier than mine! Once a week all summer long, an outfit rolled into town and turned the unused hockey arena into a roller-skating rink, complete with music and skate rentals. We were there every week without fail.
The last week of skating approached. School had already started, and the next week they would begin turning the cement floor into ice again for the hockey season. I called Carolyn and asked if she was coming. "My parents aren't home and I'm babysitting my little brother and sister. I can't come."
"But, Carolyn! It's the last skate of the year!! You HAVE to come! Couldn't you drive in and bring your sister and brother?" I whined. This was a terrible thing for me to ask her to do. Her parents were very strict, and I was sure they hadn't given her any kind of permission to do something so brash...but I really wanted to enjoy the last evening of skating with her.
"I'll see what I can do."
That is the last time I ever spoke to her. I arrived at the skate, laced up, and began racing around the arena, keeping one eye on the entrance, but she never showed up. I figured common sense must have prevailed, but I was disappointed she hadn't found a way to come. I skated alone until the very last note of the very last song.
Later that night, I got a phone call. Carolyn had been driving into town for roller skating with her little brother and sister in the back seat. She lost control going around a gravel corner and crashed the car, killing herself and her sister and severely injuring her little brother.
You can see that I felt responsible for this. How could I not? I begged her to come, I put the idea of driving into her mind, I urged her to sneak out of the house while her parents were away with her siblings...
There was a huge memorial at school. I was asked to give a short talk of my memories of her. I visited her parents. They were Japanese, and I saw for the first time a shrine to the dead, pictures of Carolyn and her sister on a table with beads and little items of hers and symbols in red and gold that I was unfamiliar with. There was a candle burning, I think. It seemed very sad and beautiful. I attended her funeral in a big temple, with robed priests banging gongs as we sat silently.
I walked alone through this whole time as one walks through a dark fog. I told no one of how I had cajoled her that evening.