I walked carefully with a bouquet of red roses in hand, unsure if it had been too long. As it was a chilly day, I hugged my jacket closer to my body. The sound of skateboards grinding on the concrete and guys’ laughing filled my ears. I was suppose to go the year before but it was too damn hard. I made my way across the North Hollywood skatepark, reminiscing of the endless time I spent there. We both went to Millikan Middle School and stayed in the afterschool program. Rather than waiting for our parents to pick us up at 6:00 p.m., we took two buses to get to the skatepark. Alister and I, the two people who weren’t really seen together during the school hours: strangers. Sometimes it was like we were friends when lunch came around. But when school was out, we stayed long after our friends left and would gravitate towards each other. He was my confidant, and it all started on the bus. We took our skateboards out of our lockers and sprinted to the nearest bus stop. We talked about our passions and things we enjoyed on the way to the park; that’s how I learned he loved roses. No one noticed our absence, then again no one thought were close. It was our time to talk without the fear of our friends mocking us. No secrets were kept between us; openness and honesty drove our relationship. The only time silence fell between us was when I got tired. I would lay my head on his shoulder as he played with my hair. When we finally reached our stop we hopped on our skateboards and skate as fast as we can. Somehow we were back at school by 5:45 to be picked up by 6:00pm.
When we first started going I was a terrible skater; I couldn’t even do the simple tricks. I definitely wasn’t ready for the street obstacles. I would always fall and scrape my knees, but Alister persisted. He would even come and hold my hands to help me balance while trying to do an ollie. Alister was a pro; he could do the more advance tricks and was obsessed with skating the rails. The rails on the far end of the park was his domain. I had to pretend I wasn’t impressed when he would land a trick off the rails because I knew he would mock me. I always knew that even though he enjoyed helping me, he would much rather be skating the rails. In fear of cracking my head open, he never got the opportunity to teach me how to ride the rails. But Alister was fearless, always trying to push me out of my comfort zone. His encouragement would motivate me to work harder even if I thought I had failed. When I finally snapped out of my reminisce, I realized that I had made it to the rails. There was Alister.
A blown up picture of Alister was printed and left by the rails; I don’t know who put it there. Seeing his face brought me back to just the year before, November 2016. I had been on a video call with him planning a trip for the upcoming weekend. Before we knew it, 2 a.m. rolled around and I had fallen victim to the depths of sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I found out through Instagram that Alister had taken his life. I suddenly felt as if my lungs forgot how to breathe. I mindlessly walked to my mom’s room. I do not remember how I managed to tell my mom “Alister is dead” walk out of the room, preparing for the school day. Throughout the week the only thing I felt was guilt, constantly thinking that if I had not fallen asleep then my friend would still be alive. I even replayed our conversation in my head wondering if he ever mentioned he was having a hard time. Since then, I was not be able to look at a skateboard, a skatepark, even pictures of Alister without the feeling of guilt weighing me down. I even went to the lengths of throwing out clothing that reminded me of him and deleting photos of him. I couldn’t let myself attend his funeral or the memorial service because of the shame I felt in my heart. I never got to lay my red rose on my close friend’s casket.
It was now November 2017 and I made it to my own memorial service. It was time to move on from this aching anger. With red roses in my hand and folded index card of my apology in my pocket, I was ready to lay my friend to rest. Not caring if people heard me, I spoke my peace, “I know it was not my fault Alister. I’m sorry it took me this long to figure that out. I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the funeral, it was too real. One minute we’re laughing and the next you’re gone. I miss you so much man, there is no one to teach me to heelflip. I gave up skating not ready to go back to that yet, but baby steps. I brought you your favorite, red roses. I brought you twelve. One for each month that I stayed away, I’m sorry I couldn’t lay them on your casket. But you loved this place, so I thought I could pay my respects here. I love you and miss you, I hope your skating up there in your rose shirt.”