It was painfully early on a Saturday morning. It was to be my second day of a three day class designed to decrease the chances of causing bodily harm to oneself while riding a motorcycle (or in my case, a scooter). Despite the frigid, early morning air, I was excited. The night before, we had sat in a classroom and poured over material, learning traffic laws and basic riding techniques. Today, though, we were to actually straddle a motorcycle, and although we'd merely be riding in slow, deliberate circles, I had never been on a actual motorcycle, so I was excited.
I shouldn't have checked my voicemail, it's that simple. Had I waited until the end of the class, I could have spent the day in ignorant bliss, learning the art of motorcycle riding. But as I put my purse in the safety of my trunk, I noticed the red light on my cell phone flashing, alerting me to a message. A phone call that early could have only meant something bad had happened, I knew that. I didn't recognized the phone number, a 714 area code. I also didn't recognize the voice on the recording at first as I hadn't heard it in over five years. It was Mike Pratt, the older brother to Chris, who was my first "real" boyfriend...the most important boyfriend I had had so far.
Mike sounded exhausted, both physically and mentally. He relayed the message I'm sure he had left on at least a dozen other people's voicemail that morning, "I'm sorry to say that Chris died in a car accident. His memorial is on Sunday, if you'd like to come." I snapped my phone shut and stared at it. I looked around at the people tugging helmets over their heads, covering up their bedhead. They all seemed so excited, just as I had been not one minute before...before this sudden change had shifted my life.
I got in my car and headed home, hoping to stave off the tears until I got there. Chris wasn't my first boyfriend to die in a car accident, but for some reason this felt different. My relationship with Chris was my first point of reference for what a good relationship was in my book. We were best friends, we did everything together and were so connected to each other that it scared me sometimes. It occurred to me on my drive home, just as I was cresting Laurel Canyon, that now I'd have to finish each memory I had of him, each story I told of our relationship, with "...and now he's dead." That's why I wasn't able to hold back the tears as I drove.