Have you ever had one of those “what if?” moments?
My family has these yard decorations for Thanksgiving: three little wooden Indians that stick in the ground. I always thought they were cute and festive, but I did not think too much about them.
In high school, I had this friend. He was wicked smart–acing AP Calculus as a sophomore. He was on the road to great things. Well, he also walked by my house every day on his way home from school. One day, when we happened to find each other on the walk home, he mentioned them to me. He thought they were kind of funny, and he liked them.
The next day, when I came home, pieces of paper were taped to the Indians with little quirky notes from my friend. They were signed anonymously, but I knew. He was sad when the Indians were gone, and was not as excited about the wooden angels that replaced them for Christmas.
A week or so ago, I got one of those “Memories” notifications on Facebook. It was the picture I had posted of his notes on the Indians! I smiled to myself, but did not share the memory. I never really share those things, but I knew I wanted to text him or message him about it. And when I came home this weekend for the holiday, I saw the Indians, and they reminded me of him. A Facebook message was in order, but I did not end up sending him one.
At the end of senior year, he had a breakdown because of all the pressure on him for success. We all knew he was destined for it, but following through is a whole other thing. He did not get to officially be valedictorian of our class, but he was there in spirit, and we all gave him a mental shoutout. Last night, I met up with a few friends I had not seen since graduation, and this boy came up in the conversation. I mentioned the Indians and the Facebook post. My friend had told me that after his time off, he was finally going to start school again. Hearing that made me so happy. He deserved only the best, and according to the occasional Instagram post, I could tell he was finding his way back. Again, I knew I should message hime. Tomorrow, I told myself.
Today, I came across an article of a teenager in Burbank who was shot on the overpass above the 5 freeway. Things like this keep happening in my town, and it is upsetting, but I have never been close with those involved. Reading this article was no different. They had not yet identified the body, so I tried not to think about it.
Tonight, I am back in my apartment at school. I open Twitter, and all I see from my high school friends is “Rest in Peace Jinoo” over and over again. My heart drops. I stare at the screen. Vanessa walks into my room to tell me something, but immediately, she asks what is wrong. I am not sure I can say it. One of Adam’s pledge brothers passed away today as well.
I scroll furiously for an article, anything to tell me if it was true. The lack of one makes me wonder if I am imagining it. I slowly type his name into Google, and an LA Times article tops the page.
A self-inflicted gunshot wound…identified as Jinoo Han…
I am not sure what to say or what to think. All I did was cry and let the sobs free.
What if I had texted him? What if I had asked him how he was? What if I gave him a piece of a happy memory?
I feel guilty…like I could have helped him. I have so many questions. I wonder how things could be different, had I made the effort to text him before, had I made it a priority. Knowing that I should have sent him a message and didn’t is the only thing running through my mind.
It is not my fault, and people will tell me that, but there will always be a part of me that asks “What if?” I will always wonder if I could have swayed his decision. I will always regret not reaching out to him.
We miss you already, Jinoo. I am praying for you and your family. You are so, so loved. Rest easy to our newest Burbank Angel.