Dear Karla

It was four days before Christmas, and you had just finished getting your hair done at the hairdresser. You stepped out onto the street corner about to cross when a drunk driver struck and killed you instantaneously.

I’m sitting in the walk-in clinic. I’m worried about my health again. My thoughts have flown to the big C word and my nerves are trembling. I’m the third person to have sat down in the waiting room. The girl next to me is slumped in her chair and scrolling mindlessly on her phone. Did I ever tell you I suffered from health anxiety?

I think about the times we shared in high school. We bonded over new music. In class, we used to share a pair of earphones as we took turns showing off our new musical finds.

One night, I slept over at your place, and we stole one of your brothers’ tapes and played the first track without knowing anything about the band. A catchy four-barre-chord riff opened it up, followed by thrashing drums that blew our brains out. We looked at each other and our eyes grew a little bit wider as our mouths dropped in awe. We started playing air guitar and drums and danced around your bedroom as we yell-sang out the muddled lyrics. Your room smelled of teen spirit, as we played that song over and over and talked deep into the night.

Over the years we kept in touch over various social media channels. We commented on shows we were watching or shared songs we liked but we weren’t close.

I didn’t go to your funeral. I was anxious about seeing people we used to know and didn’t want to see them. I regret it and feel like a coward. I should have gone to say goodbye to you. I wonder about your kids and how they’re doing. Your daughter reminds me so much of you. In high school, she excelled in drama just like we did.

Death never waits for us to be finished with living. It’s a race against the tide.

The waiting room is now packed. My mask is hot. My chest feels tight with panic “Palms are sweaty, arms spaghetti” (sorry).

Even as a teenager, before my mother died, the fear of death crippled my life in many ways. Am I really living or am I surviving?

High school was a million years ago, but you seem stuck in that era. I remember how you always threw your head back as you belted out your infectious laugh. And that time we kept playing Fire and Rain in class because it was in our favorite movie at the time—Running on Empty.

I miss you, Karla. 🖤

🎧Smells Like Teen Spirit