Life is fragile. Nobody is really nobody. We all wear black in the inside.
|When the World Stands Still
This piece is inspired by and dedicated in memory of Aileen Chen.
“It is with great regret that I inform you that Aileen Chen, a sophomore in our school, was struck and killed by a moving car while riding on her bike on Saturday…Please rise and join me in a moment of silence.” The raspy voice of our principal echoed through the halls, the band was quiet, the chorus muted, the world of Stuyvesant High School, still.
The last funeral I went to was my grandpa’s. My grandpa was a jolly, round man who I loved visiting even though I never knew him well. My favorite past time around him was walking around with my belly stuck out, mocking his round figure. When he breathed his last on the fated operating table, I was only six years old. I was told to dress in all black and stay quiet. My mom and her sisters stood in front of the coffin tearing. They did it so naturally, so passionately, and so - on cue; it was as if this moment had been rehearsed a million times over. The only sounds that could be heard were those of crying. It was quieter than a Catholic Mass, the wind’s whisper, tickling ears. I noted how everyone was wearing black. It became difficult to distinguish who from whom. We were a homogeneous mass of men and women in black, no different from the person standing next to us. I was told and was aware that my grandpa had “passed”. I didn’t know what to do. I stared at his still face, a stressed look still gripped on his face, as if the pain of Heart failure still tortured him, yet a released look was still faintly visible in his wrinkled face. Then I, too, began to tear.
No one dared speaking during Aileen’s moment of silence. It would have been the ultimate insult to not dedicate that one minute of time to honor and acknowledge her former presence and now, her current absence. The chains of my thoughts coiled around my heart. I couldn’t imagine being on top of the world one second, a radiant future awaiting me as the wind blew in my face then feel everything I worked for, everything I’ve done, my life, slip out in my last breaths, the next.
Hordes of students from my school and many others gave their best wishes to her and her family.
“Rest in Peace.” “I hope you’re in a better place now.” “I miss you already.”
Gone. Soon to become another blip in the radars of many.
What if I died? Felt death’s cold embrace as it drained the vitality from my veins. Would my best friends cry for me? Would my best friends dedicate a day, an hour, a minute in my memory? I wondered if the people I drifted from would feel anything at all. Maybe the dormant fermenting thoughts of our past friendship and dusty memories would finally be released into their bloodstream, racing for their heart. The moment of silence would be enacted.
For me. And already for Aileen.
Sometimes, during warfare, the blip in the radar turns out to be a submarine, an airplane, a supersonic nuclear missile. It probably wouldn’t be recognized as such until its impact and effects are seen firsthand when finally, it is already too late. What if Aileen wasn’t a blip in the radar just because of her passing? It’s likely that she was already a blip for many, her face diluted among the many faces of our school. Her friends knew and acknowledged her presence. She wasn’t a blip to them. Then the missile hits, her tragedy known and spread amongst everyone in her loving memory. And everyone knew what the blip was.
She was a physics lover. She was an aspirer. She was Aileen Chen.
Her hopes, her dreams become the hope and dreams of others. No, I’m not saying we will all become physics lovers. Her sacrifice has made many aware of the fragility of life. Her sacrifice made me aware of the fragility of life. How, even though one life, one person may not mean much to one or many could mean more than the world to others. How we all can feel the loss of life, a void in our hearts finally etched. How for one moment, we can all stand together and bid her farewell as the gates of Heaven welcome her. How for one moment, we can shut aside all other thoughts, shut up, and wear black, as the world turns still.