Saturday morning I snuck out of the house before the kids were up and headed out to get a pedicure and manicure. I choose the right color of red (something like “I’m in charge Red!” or “Red Alert Red”) and I am quickly settled into my reclining vibrating seat, ready to think of nothing and come home happy.
I turn on my iPhone. There is no new mail and no new news, so I visit Facebook.
The first thing I see has something to do with “my heart goes out to the family” and then another post that says “I just heard, I can’t believe it.”
I can’t believe it either. She was so young, so free.
I message to a former student and ask what happened. It was a car accident, she said, in the rain, on I-75.
I can’t believe it, so I go to her Facebook page. It must be real. Her friends and family are posting the saddest goodbyes, like Hailey would arrive in heaven and check her messages. Hot salty tears pour down my face and I feel completely helpless.
The nice man with the tattoo on his forearm proclaiming something in calligraphic Vietnamese is intently filing my toenails. I want to tell him something but I can’t. I wipe my tears and my nose on the inside of my jacket sleeve, hoping no one notices.
I check Facebook again and again, every new message on her wall making it more and more real.
Then I find the story in a Lake City newspaper with her name in the headlines. It is really really real.
I want to kick the man and run out of my pedicure. I want to go somewhere and do something and fix all of this, but I can’t figure what that would be so I sit there.
By the time he is painting my toenails I’ve cried enough that my mascara is gone and my eyes are red.
I want to cancel my manicure, cancel my day, and throw a shroud of grief over this entire town.
But I do nothing, and let him lead me out of the pedicure station to the nail part of the store. He applies this amazing gel stuff that will last three weeks, and I want to be happy. While my nails are being done I keep the phone off and watch cooking shows on the TV above his head. Giada is grilling peaches. I will never grill a peach, I think, and wonder again what to do.
Soon enough it is over, my pedicure, my manicure, my time in this little box. I have to go be a mom and face the rest of the weekend but I don’t want to.
I want to curl up and cry for Hailey, for her brothers and her parents and her cousins and the hundreds of friends she left behind. I want to cry for everything she never did, for everything she thought she would do.
But I don’t curl up and shut down. Instead I hunt through my computer to see if somehow something of hers survived the “big purge” I had to do on my email this summer before we migrate to a new service.
There it was, an essay of encouragement to future students. I skim it for treasure and find it in the end of her letter when she advises future students to make the most of every single day, every opportunity.
I want to slam the computer closed and forget about writing, about everything and just feel the big hole of loss that is inevitable in life.
But Hailey won’t let me.
Her words that sat on my computer for 3 years come alive and I know what I have to do.
I have to keep going as far as I can for as long as I can, that’s what Hailey did and that’s what she would want me to do.