“A girl from school wrote that she was going to kill herself on Facebook.”
Up until then, the leaves under our feet made swishy, dry sounds. But I stopped moving.
I needed to sit down, but he didn’t want to so I had to keep walking.
“She said goodbye and everything. I didn’t find out about it until after it happened.”
I held my breath as we passed the trees that had turned gold.
“Is she okay?” I asked, praying hard for this girl who was suddenly with us like the wind in the trees.
“Her friends contacted her mother or something. She’s in the hospital.”
“Do you know her?” I shoved my hands in my pockets.
“Not really. I found out from a friend.”
We stopped at the water’s edge and found each other’s eyes.
“I want you to promise me something.”
My son looked at me. He knew what I was going to say. But I said it anyway.
“If someone threatens to hurt themselves or someone else on Facebook or in a text or in real life, you have to promise me that you will take it seriously.”
“No matter where I am. You have to contact me. I’ll help you do whatever we need to do.”
My son tilted his chin. “Sometimes you can’t answer your phone.”
He had me there. Because when I am teaching, I can’t take calls. Or answer texts.
The wind blew cool air though my sweater.
“You know what I mean. You can leave me a message. I can check messages. If there is an emergency, I can always make time.”
My son nodded.
The sun was going down as we turned down the mossy path.
As my feet moved, I thought about the girl’s mother. How terrified she had to be.
I thought of a car accident that occurred just a few miles down the road: how a young driver had been speeding through a residential neighborhood and smashed into a bus. They could have all been killed, but they weren’t.
I thought of my son who has been quiet lately. How we don’t connect the way we used to. How I don’t know what he does for most of his day. How he is going on a trip to New York City on a school field-trip in a few weeks.
I won’t be there.
And what if he needs me?
“Mom,” Tech called. He’d stopped to inspect something on the ground. “Come check out this bug carcass.”
I looked at my son. I thought he was going to say thank you. Or run over and hug me. Or tell me how glad he was that we had talked. I thought a lot of things. But he didn’t do or say any of the things he used to do and say so readily.
“Let me take a picture of you,” he said, holding out his hand for the camera.
So I posed for him.
“You okay?” he asked, a line creased his forehead.
I told him that I was fine, but it was a lie.
Because 8th graders shouldn’t be thinking about killing themselves.
They shouldn’t be thinking about dying.
Back at the car, we noticed our shadows.
“My shadow is taller than yours,” my son smiled. “I’m catching up to you.”
I looked at the red and the yellow and the green around me. I looked at my son in his maroon hoodie which will soon be too small for him. A gust blew some leaves off the trees. They soared over our heads and then fell on the grass, quivering.
I know time is passing, but is it so wrong to want things to stay like this for a little while longer?
I’m not ready for winter.
When is the last time you slowed down, unplugged and took a walk with someone you care about? Do me a favor, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Or write that person a letter. Do something to show someone you care about them today. What is one beautiful thing you can do to show someone they are important to you? Or (conversely), what do you wish someone would do or say to you today. Let me be that person.
tweet me @rasjacobson