It was 2:45am when I glanced at my phone and skimmed through the names of the people who messaged me. Responding to Zoe was always a priority, however with the weight of the exams the next day looming over me I decided to ignore her for the second time that night.
“I’ll reply in the morning,” I thought.
At 8:15 my alarm went off jolting me awake with the dreadful realisation that I had snoozed far too many times. Arriving forty minutes late into the exam, short of breath and anxious I took the first seat closest to the door in the front row.
At 12pm we were asked to put down our pens. I scanned the crowd in the big hall waiting to see Zoe’s smirking face sarcastically saying “so you came early” as she always did every time I arrived late. The arrival of my principle followed by a group of women sporting identical bright orange t-shirts interrupted my search.
Words are a powerful thing. They have the ability to define you, to hurt you, to torment you and completely break you down. The words that my principle uttered next changed my life.
“With a heavy heart I have to inform you that Zoe lee Morgan has passed away”
Suddenly everything was a haze. All I could hear was a ringing in my ear. I felt numb. I couldn’t think or comprehend what I had just heard. It wasn’t until I was approached by a teacher that I realised I was shaking and crying uncontrollably. I was in disbelief.
The days that followed felt like the longest of my life. The hardest part of losing her so suddenly was not knowing how and not understanding why. Her mother wasn’t ready to disclose the cause of her death. Deep down I knew what happened but I refused to believe it. I didn’t want to believe it, I couldn’t. The weeks before her death she talked so much about her plans for the future, her aspirations and goals that is was difficult for me to believe that she wouldn’t have a future, that she wouldn’t age a day over 16. When her suicide note posted according to the time she had set on her Tumblr there was no denying my suspicions. Reading her final thoughts broke my heart. I finally built up the courage to open up and read the last messages she had sent me which I had ignored. Teary eyed and distraught I realised reading them that I put more importance on a year 11 exam than my best friends wellbeing. If I could just go back in time and respond to her and reassure her that she is not alone and that I love her, maybe, just maybe that would’ve been enough for her to fight another day. The pain I felt at that moment is indescribable.
I had known about Zoe’s depression for as long as I could remember. I knew about the torment and abuse she suffered from at home. I had seen the scars from her self-inflicted wounds that covered the entirety of her arm from her wrists to her shoulders. I knew about the eating disorder and her insecurities and constant self-doubt. I knew she wasn’t ok. But I also knew she was so much more than her mental illness. Zoe was kind, generous, extremely clumsy, uncoordinated and sarcastic as hell. She was also unbelievably talented and smart and had much to offer to the world. The only thing she lacked was genuine people in her life who reminded her of her best qualities every day.
Losing someone I talked to every single day was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I still find it hard to understand why she had to go. The selfish part of me sometimes feels anger and bitterness towards my friend who left me with a void that can never be filled. But mainly I just miss the comfort and the sense of security I felt with her presence. I miss her ability to read me and offer me the right words at the right time. I miss her unconditional love and genuine concern for my happiness. I just miss her.
People say it gets easier with time. They’re wrong. If anything it gets harder. Every milestone, every heartache, every memorable experience I want to share it with her and tell her about it, and every time I’m reminded that I can’t. After a while people stop asking if you’re ok. They stop checking up on you. They stop counting down the days till it happened. They forget. And they move on while I stand still, frozen, back at that exam hall, praying it’s just a dream or someone else’s memory, unable to let go.
Looking back now I realize at the time we were just kids. I’m still in awe at how someone with the burden of so much pain can be capable of so much love and compassion at that age. Reading the last words she ever wrote to me in her note brings me an incredible amount of grief and heartbreak but it also helps me get through the day. It reminds me that our friendship was real. That the pain I feel for her loss every day is worth having her in my life for the period of time that I did. And although it was short lived I can proudly say that Zoe Lee Morgan was my friend, she was amazing, and I wouldn’t give that up for the world.
“Nazia you have always listened and given me genuine advice. I always felt safe with you and I am so glad you were always there to talk to, I think without it I would be in a much worse place.”