When I called Rachel, she answered the phone cheerfully. I should have listened more carefully to that tone, should have let it linger longer before I brought the sky crashing down over her. Last year, around this time, just as the weather was starting to turn and leaves began popping up on all the trees, our uncle died in his sleep; our grandparents were visiting for the week and found him the next morning. I remember the phone call, biking home with tears obscuring my view. It was raining but the weather report said 66 degrees and sunny. This time around, I was on the other end of the line. I should have let Rachel’s cheerful voice linger a bit longer.
We have a habit in my family of not having too many friends. My close friends have held their post since first grade, and my brother’s best friend has known him for twenty-one years and known me for my entire life. Similarly, my parents are only close to a handful of other couples, and all of those relationships have lasted for more than twenty years. When we find people we like, we stick with them—but finding those people is difficult.
Rachel doesn’t have a best friend. She is a ballerina, which makes the line between friend and competitor awfully thin. In place of best friends, she has a handful of old companions from the many years my siblings and I spent at summer camp, that she now sees a few times a year when they organize New Years Eve get-togethers and birthday parties. Even so, friendships among teenage girls are tempestuous and often fickle. She is closest with the boys, I think, especially Adiv, who died in a car accident on March 28.
I found out of his passing on Facebook, which seems the most common—certainly the most jarring—way of finding things out nowadays. When Philip Seymour Hoffman died I found out on Facebook, when a barrage of sappy posts wished him a restful peace and proclaimed his thespian greatness. I didn’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman, and none of my Facebook friends did either, so I perceived it as a strange cultural phenomenon. I observed this juxtaposition between the sacred and the mundane from afar, disdainfully.
I knew Adiv—not well; we only had a few personal conversations—but his brother Amit and I have been friends for as long as Rachel and Adiv had been friends, and so our paths crossed at most camp reunions. Reading the comments on his death was surely different than it had been after Mr. Hoffman’s passing. The first post for Adiv read: “Rest in piece, Adiv,” and had accrued seven likes in twenty-two minutes. Its misspelling gave me the impression that it was just an inside joke between camp friends. Later on in my newsfeed I saw that Amit had changed his profile picture to a photograph of the two brothers; a comment on the picture stated: “Just heard the news. I’m here for you.” Ten minutes later, half a dozen similarly worded comments appeared.
My sister was born April 12 and I was born April 26. Our grandta Tolchi died March 27, our uncle Erik died April 8, and our friend Adiv died March 28. Something about spring is fatal to people we love.
On Thursday night, Adiv called Rachel to ask her advice on how to ask his crush to prom. On Friday night, he died in a car crash. On Saturday night, Rachel wanted to watch something stupid and funny; she chose Hook, a retelling of Peter Pan, which is about a group of Lost Boys who never grow up but stay young and beautiful forever. The movie was supposed to be a comedy but I don’t think any of us laughed.
On Sunday afternoon Amit posted a short status on his Facebook wall. It read: “We will be having a funeral for Adiv L— on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm” and then included the address of the cemetery. I found the wording strange. When it’s your birthday your friends and parents say “we will be having a birthday party for X,” not “we will be having the birthday party for X,” because a signifies one among many. But this will be Adiv’s only funeral. Amit also linked his brother’s Facebook page to the name, which was at first puzzling to me. But I know that now any one of Adiv’s distant Facebook friends can know the full story when they click on his page in a few months or a year to find out how he’s doing—instead of relying on the sparse and respectfully ambiguous posts collecting dust there now.
But teenagers aren’t supposed to have funerals. They are supposed to have birthdays and girlfriends and SATs and, later, they are supposed to go off to college and get drunk and learn something and maybe find someone. On Sunday, before Amit’s post, my mom called me to tell me that Adiv’s funeral would be on Wednesday and that Rachel wanted to go. My dad didn’t want her to, thinking that it would be too upsetting. I thought she should, even though it was in Harrisburg and she goes to school in New York City and Wednesday is a school day. Any debate was pointless. What did he know? What did I know? This was new ground for all of us.
A few hours before the accident, Adiv changed his Facebook cover picture. The photograph depicts him and five identically dressed friends walking away from the camera along a favorite dirt path at camp. The softest light illuminates their backs and they approach that magnificent oak tree with the swinging bench. We all used to congregate around that tree on lazy Saturdays and late Sundays to listen to the crickets and talk about life in big terms like we knew what we were talking about. I usually don’t go for pictures like that because they portray an idyll that never exists. Still, looking at the photograph a week after his passing, I am surprised by its potency. I haven’t cried since he died, maybe because I didn’t know him too well or because I haven’t seen Rachel cry yet and think that I shouldn’t if she didn’t. But I also haven’t been to camp in four years or seen that dirt path or the soft light in so long, and it’s been some time since I’ve thought about those many conversations under that magnificent oak tree. And so, having done some of those things that teenagers are supposed to do and eagerly awaiting doing the rest, I finally let the tears come generously and hope to God that heaven looks something like that clichéd, sentimentalized cover photo; and that, if it does, Adiv is there.