We sat together at the table. It was lunch time. We chose a table in the back, where there were less people, which I later felt thankful for as tears poured down my cheeks. I couldn't stop them, they just fell without provocation. I didn't eat.
I met her my first year of college. Instant friends. God, she's funny. To this day, even. It's her laugh. Her sense of humor. But we weren't laughing that day, not at all.
I noticed the signs almost immediately. She always talked about her mom, her little brother. A tattoo on the small of her back held her father's initials inside a tear drop. I never asked. What place was it of mine? But I didn't have to ask.
"Could you read over my paper?" she asked one afternoon. We shared a class together. Expository writing, I think. I don't remember my own paper topic, but you don't forget hers. Her paper set the scene, her father's funeral. She, only a sophomore in high school, read a poem, aloud, at his funeral. At 16 years old, she was burying her dad.
I don't remember specific details about the paper anymore. It's been six years. But I remember one, her father was murdered. And that day, at the lunch table, she told me why. Not so much why, as how a 16-year-old girl watches her mother fall to her knees at the front door when police officers awaken them from deep sleep to, regrettably, inform them that their husband and father had been killed.
Why is senseless. There is no why. People can ask, but what is the answer? Why does a man walk into his job, on the overnight shift, and shoot? Killing a 42-year-old father, husband, son? There is no why. That man also killed himself. He took the "why" with him.
This is the story she told me at the lunch table, between her own tears and mine. She told me about the comb, about the dollar bill, about the items her father had on him on his last night, now sealed in plastic bags. She held them in her hands. She told me about watching the news, watching police, officials, the coroner, moving in and out of the building in which her father had just lost his life. It was news now. Already. And she had to watch it on the television screen.
She told me things that, to this day, make me ache. Things that no 16-year-old daughter, sister should endure. I thought her stronger than me, but maybe she isn't. Maybe no one is strong enough. We're only human. It had been just a few years since it happened as we sat at the lunch table. I remember watching her. Watching her tell this story, a story so tragic I actually hurt. How did she do it?
It's been nine years, today, since she lost her father. And I'm thinking of her. And I know she's strong.