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He Wasn't Scared
The headlights of the cars made bright stripes across my bedding and my walls as they passed, making my room eerie and uncomfortable. I snuggled down further beneath my comforter and pressed the sheets to my face. I hated the shadows on the wall the same way I had hated them when I was five. It was different then, though, because when I was five, Collin had been here to stay in my room with me. He wasn’t afraid.
Collin was the valedictorian, homecoming and prom king, voted best smile, best hair and most likely to succeed. He didn’t stutter when he had to recite Shakespeare in front of his English class and he didn’t bite his pencil during tests. He wasn’t scared of anything.
When I was ten and got the news that my father had overdosed and died, I locked myself in my room and sobbed. I wasn’t sure what I’d do without my dad, I mean, I knew I had my mom and my stepdad, Mark, but Mark just wasn’t my real dad. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t allowed to see my real dad anymore, the fact that he was DEAD was overwhelming enough.
Collin had picked the lock and touched my shoulders. I looked up through teary eyes. He had picked me up, off my pink cushioned window seat and kissed my head, telling me it’d be okay, that he was here. He told me about how his mom had died of lung cancer when he was thirteen. He wasn’t scared then, and he wasn’t scared now.
He wasn’t scared when he had a blackout during a football game his senior year. We all were, gathered around his hospital bed as he laid there in a coma. The first time he opened his eyes he laughed.
“Why ya’ll crying? I’m fine!”
Then we all laughed…maybe from relief, maybe from fear.
“Were you scared?” I asked him, pulling a chair up.
“Nah. Why would I be?”
“Because you almost died” my eyes clouded with tears. I was only thirteen.
“Well, if I did die, it’d be because the good Lord wanted me to be with Him.” He said, reaching out to stroke my hair. “You don’t need to fear anything, Alexa, because in the end, everything works out.”
Maybe it was true to him, but not to me. He recovered fast, but he still scared everyone.
We all should have known. It was his calling, right after high school, to join the military. My mother cried and his father, my stepfather, asked him if he really wanted to. Of course he did, what did he have to fear? He was defending his nation.
So, at fourteen years of age, I kissed Collin on the cheek as he boarded the plane. He hugged my mother and stepfather, and tipped his hat, a silly smile on his face. He was off.
We got letters and cards, words scribbled on scrap paper. We wrote back, and I always asked the same question, and always got the same response.
“No, Lexa. I’m not scared. Don’t you be, either.”
Then came that one day, the one day where the letter was not from him. The day when the letter was typed, filled with big words, telling us they were sending his body home.
And I stood over the casket, with Collin’s body inside, the American flag proudly covering it. Inside I knew was Collin’s empty shell, a flag pin and his football jersey. I was scared, shaking the hands of friends and family. I didn’t think I could live without Collin.
I kept a picture of him, in his uniform with an American flag background on my desk, so, on nights like these, I could look back at him. It had barely been two months, but something changed in me. Maybe it happened two days after the funeral, when I had locked myself in my closet, sobbing.
His voice came from nowhere. It was a simple particle in the air, stopping in my ears.
“I’m not scared, Alexa. There’s nothing to be afraid of here. You shouldn’t be scared, either.”
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"Stop existing and stop living"- Michael Jackson ("Heal the World")