Trigger Warning: The following story is based on real-life events and talks about suicide.
That February day back in 2008, I was a middle school student. I had school at noon shift and was preparing myself at around 11:40 a.m. Half an hour later, my best friend, Zoya, knocked on the door. She used to come by and we’d walk to school together. The whole walk was about five minutes long. I opened the door and greeted Zoya with a smile, but this didn’t last long. When my eyes met hers, I saw tears in them. And without missing a beat, she said, “Nayla is dead.”
Upon hearing the words, I felt like a train hit me. I couldn’t believe what she’d just said. How could our friend be dead? She was too young to die. But Zoya’s tears were so real. And I was too shocked to cry. I don’t know how I finished preparing myself with these gloomy thoughts about Nayla. Somehow I got ready and we left for school. While taking the usual route, Zoya said, “Nayla committed suicide.” She’d hung herself, the day before, which was a day after I had turned thirteen.
We got into school and the news of her passing had shattered the students. I entered my classroom and the scene was heartbreaking. Everyone was crying, and that’s when it all hit me. She really was dead. Whilst I was processing the whole situation, Leen, my other best friend, came to me and hugged me with her teary eyes. And my tears started to roll down my face, as though her hug squeezed me. There was sadness and confusion in the atmosphere.
The teachers came to our classroom to talk to us. Unfortunately, their tone wasn’t friendly and lacked compassion towards us, the teenagers who were traumatized beyond imagination. We’d just lost one of the sweetest people at our school. The one who was kind and friendly with everyone. The girl who smiled big. How could the teachers speak to us like this? I didn’t understand.
The teachers talked to her close friends alone. Seeking information and maybe figure out why she did what she did. But that didn’t matter anymore. It was too late, the darkness had already taken her whole. She was already part of the world of the dead and buried with her hopes and dreams. To this day, I still didn’t know the exact reason why she decided to end her life. But rumors were floating around. She let go of this world, yet people wouldn’t let her rest in peace.
Back at school, we used to have notebooks with tiny locks and keys that we called “memory notebooks” and we’d pass them around our classmates so that they would write something in it. We’d write each classmate’s name on a page, and when they got it, they would leave their words as memories to stay with us years after we were apart. That day when our friend left us for good, we attacked those memory notebooks looking for the words she’d left us. Trying to find glimpses of her between the pages and hold on to them. We dug our things trying to find pictures we had with her.
One day at school, I heard that her close friends said that she indirectly mentioned she’d end her life. I don’t remember exactly what she’d said, but it was something like, “I’ll have you wear black on Valentine’s Day.”
Days passed and the news involving her lessened. Each one of us coped with the loss in a different way. We were too young to know how to deal with this sorrow. We didn’t find someone to listen to us. Somehow life started to get back to normal, but I guess we were all still affected. I know I was.
Sometimes I remember her. Like the times she’d sing Indian songs for us. The ones she’d learned watching Bollywood movies. Or the time we were sitting in the tiny garden behind our classes and laughed so hard at a joke that we read together. I remember how her smile would give hope and warmth. She was full of life.
Some time passed and I slowly started to have a weird negative feeling. As if there was a tight grip on my heart. I couldn’t breathe easily. I barely felt present. At school I was fine and felt better. Probably because I was distracted with the classes and my friends. But at home, I was less busy. So to my thoughts I was left. I bottled up a lot of emotions during this time. Until one night I exploded.
That night as I was sitting with my family, I started to cry. I saw the worries and confusion that made their ways on my parents’ faces. They asked me, “Why are you crying? Are you okay?” But I was crying too hard to be able to give them a reply. I can’t imagine the thoughts that might have run in my parents’ heads. What trouble did they think their teenage daughter was in? My sister was too young to understand why I exploded with tears like that. But my parents were more understanding. They gave me space and told me, “You can cry.” I felt relieved that they didn’t judge me for it.
Once I was done with crying I said, “I’m thinking about death.”
My parents knew where these thoughts were coming from and understood that I wasn’t thinking about suicide. They assured me that death is part of life and that everyone will die someday. They said other things that warmed my heart. And I know they stated the facts, but the crying and their words helped to calm the storm I had within.
I don’t think about her a lot nowadays. But once in a while I remember her sweet smile. And when she pops up in my head, I can’t help not crying. She deserved better. I can’t not think that if she was alive, she’d be 29-30 years old now. She’d probably be a mother. But she isn’t alive. She’d left us many years ago.
Please keep my friend in your prayers and positive thoughts.