“Mischief, giggles, fun and love. That’s what little boys are made of.”Author Unknown
Death is something I have become an expert in. The first person I saw bereft of life was my classmate from primary school, a boy named Adrian. This is his story, at least for the brief time we spent together.
The teacher used to punish him all the time, as he was restless and would not sit quiet, disturbing the rest of the class. My memory might be foggy, but I remember a kid who could not stand still for more than a full minute, always having a naughty smile on his face.
He loved swinging his legs under the desk, in a constant back-and-forth motion. I remember his black uniform, with the pressed collar and white sleeves coming out of the jacket. He was like quicksilver and we all loved how he was. Today, he would probably be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and taken to therapy.
Adrian had a sister and lived in the center of the town in a new residential area. His best friend was Paul, who was also a classmate. Paul is now living in Sweden, doing incredible things. I do not know how his life was shaped by the experience you are going to read about, but I believe that it has played an important role in his outlook.
After school, the two of them would meet to play, as they lived close by. Do you know the kind of friendship that doesn’t need words? They were just like that. Hours after school, they went to the construction site and played. There was a lot of physical play involved, as this is how kids used to be in the 90s.
One day, they decided to play near an asphalt paving machine. they performed a complete inspection of the equipment, then try to climb on it. Both fell behind the large machine, this being the reason why he is alive today. Adrian fell underneath.
Neither of them noticed that a man was inside the machine, prepare to turn it on. Tragically, the worker failed to notice the kids as well. Paul shouted at Adrian to get out but it was too late. The little boy was crushed and died on the spot. I don’t know what happened next, this is all the information we got about his death.
I remember coming to school and seeing the empty seat. The teacher, sad and solemn, told us how things unfolded. She stood with her hands placed firmly together and spoke softly as if trying to soften the blow. Adrian’s head had been crushed and he did not have any chance to survive. We are all going to his home, to pay our respects and say goodbye to our classmate. The funeral cortege would leave from his home, passing by the school on the way to the cemetery.
That was my first encounter with death. who would have thought that we would become such close acquaintances? Everyone kept explaining death, but I failed to understand it. I still have trouble grasping the concept of eternal rest and its ever-extending influence, after all this time I saw many people I’ve lost.
My teacher asked me if I could write a poem and recite it when the cortege would stop at the school. I sat with my mother in the dim light of the kitchen and tried to give it my best. I was a kid and I honestly did not know how to write about death. It was my mother who told me to speak from the heart.
Even though I was so young, I felt like I had a responsibility to Adrian. I had to honor him and his brief life, with that shining away from death.
At school, the kids will talk about Adrian’s head being crushed and how his brain had been scattered all over the pavement. Kids would talk about all these horror facts and all I could think about was his empty seat. Years later, so many people would leave an empty seat for me to look at. that was death and I could not stand it, from day one.
I was told that Adrian’s face was not disfigured and that his head would be covered up so that I could stand next to the coffin to recite the poem I had written. Unfortunately, I do not remember what I wrote, nor did I keep physical proof. Perhaps it was too painful and I threw it away, to protect myself. even as an adult, I followed the same path.
On the day of the funeral, we went to school and soon the funeral cortege arrived. When confronted with something difficult, I tend to notice insignificant details, which have nothing to do with the actual situation. It took me no more than a couple of seconds to notice that Adrian’s coffin was placed in a large green truck and I kept thinking. Why green? So stupid.
The truck had a large platform covered with a white cloth, on which the coffin had been placed, surrounded by hundreds of flowers. Adrian appeared even smaller and it was so strange to see him quiet, not moving, for eternity. The whole school was there to say a final goodbye. the teacher raised me on the platform so that I could recite my poem. I remember standing there, and wishing he would get up and say to everyone that it all had been just a joke. Because, you know, that is the thing with death. You never want to believe it has occurred. You deny it for as long as you can. no matter how final it may seem, there is still a small part of you wishing things would be different. I am amazed at how strongly we desire life when confronted with death.
I do not remember coming down from the platform, nor do I have any recollection of the silent March to the cemetery. Perhaps we kids did not even go to the actual funeral. We just returned to our studies, unaware of how close our encounter with death had been.
Later, on that same day, we went to Adrian’s house, for the wake. He lived in one of the newly built residences, in a duplex apartment we all envied. It was a paradise for children, to have stairs in your own home and play on them all the time.
Adrian’s parents were trying to keep up appearances but even we kids could tell that they were crushed. When I began writing this book, I was not a parent yet. Now, I have a beautiful daughter and I understand this whole experience a lot better. What I can say with certainty is that death steals a little bit of you. Perhaps little is not the best word to describe it, as I feel less than complete after having lost so many dear people. And, yes, the more you loved someone, the bigger that piece is going to be.
I also saw Adrian’s little sister standing next to the spiral staircase as if she was waiting for him to come out and play. She seemed lost, confounded and sad. I wonder, can she remember him today or has she created an image in her mind, according to the things her parents said.
The apartment was extremely crowded, with the entire class of students being there (and a lot of other people coming to pay their respects and honor the memory of Adrian). It felt suffocating, with very little room to breathe and I remember feeling anxious – was it because of the lack of space or did my body simply refused to accept the presence of death? That might have been a part of life but we are just beginning to experience it, being caught completely unaware of its existence.
We were only children. We didn’t realize that one of us was gone. Well, at least not at the full extent. during the wake, we ate homemade food and enjoyed ourselves. The next day, we went back to school and things got back to normal. The only thing reminding us of what happened was Adrian’s empty seat. Paul was absent for some time, returning to school in a couple of weeks.
For adults, death is sometimes a given. When it comes to children, things are not the same. They are transformed by such an experience, death shaping their future perspective on life. Paul seemed transfigured by sadness, keeping mostly to himself. Soon after, he transferred to another school. Perhaps the whole thing had been too much for him and he needed a change.
So many years have passed since Adrian’s death. Despite this, I can still remember him perfectly – a naughty smile, playful eyes and a passion for exploration. It was my first encounter with death and it taught me a lot of things. From time to time, I think about his parents. How did they manage to deal with their loss? They say that time heals all wounds but I do not think this is valid when it comes to death. And grief does indeed come in waves, taking you by surprise.
Rest in peace, Adrian!
Das ist die Endfassung des Kapitels »Adrian« aus Stories for the Heart von Indie-Autorin Alexandra Antipa.
Das sagt die Autorin zum Entstehungsprozess:
»Um zu dieser Endfassung zu kommen habe ich mehrere Fassungen gebraucht. Wie viele genau es waren, weiß ich leider nicht mehr. Mein Mann war die erste Person, die das Buch gelesen und mir Feedback gegeben hat, und das hat mir sehr geholfen. Anschließend habe ich mit meiner Lektorin zusammengearbeitet. Meine Lektorin und ich habe lange diskutiert. Sie hat viele Verbesserungsvorschläge gemacht. Da ich selbst ein ziemlich kritisches Auge habe und Perfektionistin bin, fand ich, dass meine Arbeit noch besser sein könnte.
»Adrian« ist eine autobiografische Geschichte. Für mich gab es beim Schreiben deshalb zwei Herausforderungen: Erstens wollte ich die Geschichte so erzählen, wie sie sich zugetragen hat – ohne dabei zu viel zu verraten. Ich habe diese Herausforderung gemeistert, indem ich mich auf die Stimme meines Herzens konzentriert habe und auf die Gefühle, die ich vermitteln wollte. Zweitens ist das Schreiben in einer Fremdsprache eine echte Herausforderung, an der ich ständig arbeite.
Während des Lektorats fand ich es am schwierigsten, die Kraft zu finden, aufzuhören. Ich musste mir sagen: »Das ist die beste Version, die ich veröffentlichen kann. Jetzt konzentriere ich mich auf ein anderes Projekt.« Beim Überarbeiten gibt es immer Möglichkeiten für Verbesserungen und ein Ende zu finden ist vor allem für Perfektionistinnen wie mich eine Herausforderung.
Möchtest du die Erstfassung von »Adrian« lesen? Dann klicke hier.