Out of respect, names and dates have been changed in this story to protect third party identities.
The last time I saw him we had both ordered a chocolate milk. He asked me how I was and I said, “Good.” Afterwards, outside the restaurant, I didn't say goodbye. We hadn’t spoken that much in the last few years after high school. I felt weird, like I didn't belong with the people we went to lunch with. They had new memories that I was not a part of. So I just got into my friend’s car, ready to go home. I regret this now. It was the last time I saw him.
On the morning of April 16th, 2016, Colin Davies drove his car into a transport truck in the opposite lane on the highway. He died on impact. He was nineteen.
I remember exactly where I was when I found out. At the time, I was a shitty cake decorator at a grocery store. It was a typical Saturday for me. I was on my first break at around 10:00 A.M. My high school friend Kate texted me asking if I had heard the news. I had no idea what she was talking about, but then she sent another text that simply said: “Colin Davies died this morning.” This moment felt surreal. I didn't really know how to process it. A million questions went through my head. When my break was over I packed up my lunch bag and went back to work. I was eager to finish my day at 4:30 P.M., so I could go home and find out more information.
I think I was in shock because I really didn’t register what happened until halfway through the rest of my shift. I was the only one in the bakery for most of the afternoon. I broke down in the freezer. I wanted to go home, but I didn't know how to tell the store manager what had happened. If I said it out loud to anyone, that would make it real.
Since I worked behind a counter, I didn't speak to many customers, which meant I had a lot of free time for my thoughts. I imploded. My mind was darting back and forth trying to understand. Memories from the last two years of high school started flooding back. I started to realize that someone who was a significant part of my life was dead.
When my shift was finally over, my friend Chloe picked me up and I cried as soon as she hugged me. It was the kind of sob I was not accustomed to and it scared me. It was an embarrassing sob, the kind that you only let out when you’re alone and no one else is there to hear you.
When I got home, all of my social media was covered with rest-in-peace posts. People were saying that Colin was suffering from depression, and that after a fight with his girlfriend, he drove off and texted her saying he was looking for trucks. The assumption was that he purposely crashed into the truck and killed himself.
At first I didn't want to believe it. The person I remembered could not have done something like that. Colin was the type of guy who had hundreds of friends. His smile and laugh were incredibly contagious. I can still hear his chuckle after making some inappropriate joke! He liked to party as much as any teenage boy, but he was infamous for gatherings in his parents’ basement. There was a bar downstairs so it was clearly meant to be partied in! Almost everyone I knew had done so with Colin at one point or another. New Years Eve, 2014, was the last bash I had attended. His parents owned a large home, and we filled it with people. It was an amazing party, filled with old friends who were on break from school for the holidays. One kid even fell through the floor! There was a chute that the family used to send wood down for the stove in the basement and a girl walked into it. All of a sudden there were legs hanging and kicking from the ceiling! Everyone was almost in tears from laughing so hard.
But the party ended early when his parents came home. Only a handful of friends were originally allowed to stay overnight, myself included. We frantically tried to get people out of the house and clean up, but his parents had figured it out and the damage was done. His mom shook her head at him, but she didn't yell. His dad sat beside the boys at the kitchen table, laughed and cracked open a beer with them! Parties at the Davies’ residence were not something new. His family was a lively bunch.
So, how could someone who was the life of the party end his life? This kind of tragedy was not a new occurrence in our small town. Teen suicides were common in the sense that I can think of five young people that took their lives within a five year period. Every time it happened there was a wave of sadness that spread across school. If you didn't know the person, chances are you knew someone who did. This was the first time it was someone I knew personally. Although I never got a confirmation that he did it on purpose, the rumours seemed true. Like many teens, Colin had his fair share of ups and downs. Either way, my friend was gone, and there was nothing I could do or say to make it better.
My group of friends from senior year were the best friends I ever had. I finally felt like I belonged. In the simplest of terms, I was happy. Colin was part of that group. He was there through the laughs and the explorations. He was my friend, and his death marked the fact that things would never be the same. Nothing lasts forever, people move on, friendships fade, and we grow up. Much had changed in the last few years; some of my friends that were dating had broken up, others had moved away, but most of us managed to come together for the wake and funeral later that week.
At the wake, I spoke to my friend Tony. He said that Colin would want us to be strong. He showed me a picture he took on his camera on the drive to the church. It was a ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds. He smiled and said that it was Colin watching over us that day. Something inside of me assured me that he was right.
I realized that summer, that death is final. I think that’s the part that troubled me the most: all the things he didn't get to do. He had not ventured off to college yet. He wouldn't get to have a family of his own or get married—he wouldn’t grow old. I can honestly say that I wasn't the same after this happened. I see the world differently now. But when times are tough, I try to see the ray of sunshine, because it's what Colin would have wanted.
Holly Williams is a small town girl jumping into the big city life. Reading and writing have always been activities she has been passionate about, along with photography and exploring. She likes to think if a book doesn't light a spark in your soul then it wasn't a 10/10. Her happy place is sitting on the porch on a crisp fall day, spending time with people she loves, with a hot cup of tea in her hands.