I am a member of a Facebook group called “Remembering Ms.Kay…Continually”. Today I came across a wonderful story by another student of Ms. Kay who is just as passionate about writing and was equally inspired by Ms.Kay as I am. I would like to share his story with you because we both agree that writing is something we feel we can give back to the world. So here it is. Another beautifully written piece of work in memory of Karyn Kay.
This is the first time I can remember being in town for spring break in years. It’s nice, not having to worry about traveling or schedules, just being able to go out when you feel like it, or just spend the day in. It’s nice.
Yesterday was so pleasant when I woke up. I had gotten enough sleep that I didn’t need to spend the day in bed, and was already out of the house before anyone else was awake. I was feeling so proactive—I went to see some old middle school friends, finally got my glasses tightened, and even went to see a movie with my biological dad and a few of our friends from the sideshow. It was a nice evening.
We had gotten back to the parking lot when Tony texted me. It read, “Dude, did you hear the news?” Not feeling like texting him back, I just called his phone. I asked what he was talking about, expecting it to be about some girl, or celebrity gossip that everyone had heard about aside from me. When he sounded surprised that I didn’t know, I laughed a little, jokingly asking if someone had died, thinking such an extreme conclusion would be a far leap. His response was simple enough.
“Ms. Kay died.”
I don’t think the words really set in the first time. Somehow I didn’t take him seriously, thought he was kidding. Tony asked me if he would joke about something like that. Deep down, I knew he wouldn’t. But still, it didn’t really strike a chord. I didn’t feel… anything really.
I sat slowly into the car, and we drove back to my house in Greenpoint. As we passed over the Williamsburg Bridge, I watched silently as the purple sunset sank lower into the river. It was only as I called my dad to let him know what had happened and reiterated everything Tony had said to me that the words began to develop meaning. They began to fill with weight and sink down my chest as I said them again and again.
“Ms. Kay is dead.”
My eyes felt swollen, I thought I was going to throw up. I started running over the thoughts and memories of her in my head, everything that these simple words really meant. The thought that after spring break ended and we went back to school on Monday, that our creative writing teacher wouldn’t be there waiting; That I’d never hear her say how much she loved my writing, in that way that made me so embarrassed to hear, or even be able to reluctantly accept one of her hugs at the end of class. She wouldn’t be able to tell me how she thought this story needed editing, but that it was on the right track.
The words had finally reached me, soaking into my heart and making me crumple up inside.
“Ms. Kay is dead.”
It was surreal. I wasn’t in school, this was all part of some other world. I wasn’t in the same reality that this horrible death occurred in. Part of me was breaking down, and yet another refused to accept this illogical answer. It didn’t compute. I was told, and on some level understood that she was gone, but I could never really know for myself. I hadn’t experienced the loss of Ms. Kay, only her absence. And I could hardly admit to knowing even that yet—It was spring break, my life wouldn’t be affected in any considerable way until monday. It was like some distant tragedy, a story that almost couldn’t be real. It felt like I had to take somebody else’s word for it, and just trust in the fact that Ms. Kay was really gone.
I lit a candle for her when I got home, after I had pulled myself together. The inscription I placed with it was brief:
“For Ms. Kay,
She told me to never stop writing, and her encouragement won’t be forgotten.
You will be missed dearly.”
I watched the candle burn for a long time. I sat at my kitchen table, just staring at the orange glow. Even as I drifted into sleep, I watched the small, flickering flame burn through the heavy darkness.
Even now, it doesn’t quite make sense. I don’t think it will, not until we’re finally sitting back in room 607 without her. Not until we’ve spent days with a substitute teacher, reminiscing quietly with each other about how we’d take Ms. Kay over the sub any day. And even those of us who never really cared for her much will still feel badly, and still draw upon the memories that they never really considered dear until now. It won’t be until then, until that painfully silent room becomes my new reality, that the shell-shocked part of me will finally feel and accept the unacceptable.
I spent today sitting on my couch, playing video games and neglecting my nutritional needs. It was easier to live through another, made up life, to be someone that didn’t exist in this world where we had to deal with death and face our feelings. But in this reality, we have to. There’s no enemy to defeat, no challenge to overcome that can save the day. There’s nothing that can be done, and I feel so helpless. So I lit a candle for Ms. Kay, leaving it in front of her house, because that’s all that can be done. A single candle was all I could do for her. What is a single candle in the scope of an entire, incredible life? It seems so trivial, so meaningless. But it was something.
And lastly, I wrote one more story for Ms. Kay. She told me to never stop writing, and her words will never be forgotten.
Thank you, Ms. Kay,
For believing in me.