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My friend's desk is empty

Editor's note: This column was first published in 1999. The author suggested rerunning it after a car accident in St. Petersburg last week took the lives of three teenagers.

I have to go to school today. This will probably be one of the toughest days I will have to face in my entire life. Right after my friend died, I guess it was too hard for me to realize that this would be a permanent thing.

So much was happening and so many things needed to be done that it was hard for me to realize that dead meant DEAD. I went by the house, saw the family and had most of my thoughts focused on how to get through this and make it easier on everyone emotionally, including myself. All that is over now, and life is supposed to be "back to normal," I guess.

I don't have any idea how to get "back to normal" after this past week. My friend is dead. I will never see that face or hear that voice again. We will never have serious or funny conversations ever again. I won't be getting messages on my answering machine or beeps on my pager asking me to call ASAP because it's important.

We have carpooled to school together forever. . . . Not anymore. Our lockers are on the same hallway. I wonder who cleaned out the locker. There were some pretty funny things in there that we had collected. I will have to decide who else to eat lunch with everyday. We won't be going out this weekend. Going to games and assemblies will never be the same.

I don't know what to do with the family. Will going by to visit every once in a while make things better for them? Or worse? They told me to drop by because they wanted to know how I was doing and what was happening in my life. I wonder if that is what they really want. I'd think seeing me would only make things harder and more painful for them.

It will be real strange to go by the house and know the person I used to hang out with won't be there. I know it will be uncomfortable for me because I won't know what to say and how much to tell them about me. How can I talk about my life when their kid is dead?

I know my life is supposed to go on, but I don't feel much like going to school. This morning I will ride to school alone. Today I will go to my second-period class and know the desk beside me will be empty. My friend is not sick or just out for the day. My friend will never occupy that empty desk again. I will go to lunch today and the seat next to me will not be reserved. I will go out this weekend without my good buddy.

Am I being weird, or is it normal for me to feel so confused and scared? I want to keep living, but somehow it doesn't seem right that I am still alive and my friend is not. How did this happen? I'm over hoping this is just a bad dream. This is real. This is final. This is death. I wish I could have told my friend how important our friendship was to me. That's not possible, now. I have rehearsed saying it a million times, but I never get an answer back.

Riding to school, going to class, laughing, eating lunch and weekends will never be the same. That empty desk will haunt me for the rest of my life. My friend died, and I never got to say goodbye . . .

IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker under the editorial guidance of a panel of teenagers (in exchange for pizza and volunteer hours). Tucker is a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Comments are welcome. You may write c/o: IT!, Xpress, the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridiansptimes.com. If you are interested in being on the teen editorial panel, please contact Cecilia Tucker at revceciliamsn.com.

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