I remember so clearly, the day we found out about Carrie.
We trooped into class as we always did, some of the children laughing or playing, others quietly going about the business of getting ready for another day of school. I remember that I was wearing a green army jacket against the late fall chill in the air. My sister had bought it at the army surplus store. It’s funny, the things you remember.
It took only seconds to notice that Sister Maria Corvi, standing at the front of the classroom, was dressed in black instead of her usual sober grey. Her face was grave, her lips pressed tightly together. One by one the other students stopped what they were doing and looked at her, until the entire class was silent. We were all held by the sense of dread that filled the room.
I remember that Jay wasn’t in class.
“Class, it is my sad duty to inform you of the passing of one of your fellow students here at Holy Trinity school last night. A mass will be held later this week in memory of Carrie Adams.”
The class gasped collectively. Jay’s little sister had died? I felt a pang. Carrie had been one of the few people in my class last year who hadn’t treated me like a complete stranger. Despite attempts by Sister, no schoolwork was accomplished that day.
By our first recess, the rumor mill had established that Carrie had committed suicide. By second recess, the method of demise was established as a gunshot. Or she had hung herself. Or she had cut her wrists in the bathtub. By third recess she was pregnant and had killed herself out of grief, despite being only nine years old. They seemed morbidly fascinated by this grim news, and even more fascinated with making it as dramatic as possible.
Because I was not so immersed in the cliques and cultures of the school, I was able to watch the aftermath from the outside. I found it disturbing how they thrilled and thrummed with the news, how they picked at the corpse like crows. They were genuinely sad, but it almost seemed that the death of one of their own punctuated and underlined their own vitality. Made them feel more alive.
I remember thinking that this would make Jay hate me even more. I remember feeling bad that I was thinking about myself instead of Carrie and her family and the sadness they must be feeling.
It’s funny, the things you remember.