THE NIGHT IT HAPPENED
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
The night your life changes forever always starts off as an ordinary night. You don’t feel a pit in your stomach. You don’t feel something weird in the air. The series of events will just unfold without you ever having a clue; or a chance to change it.
For me, that night started off with me jogging on the treadmill in my basement while listening to music. His music. Even when we were apart, I desperately clung to any connection to him.
I was interrupted by a call from Julianna; Daniel’s kid sister. She had said enough to raise alarm bells in my mind.
I ran upstairs to change. It was a night I imagined more than I wish to say. I knew this was coming. Of course, I knew. Daniel and I had been together for years at this point. I was no stranger to the darkness in his mind. It was what drew us together in the first place. We knew the darkest corners of each other's minds and we finally felt understood. We talked about this happening. But imagining and living it are two entirely different things.
We knew how to ease each other’s demons; how to find solace in each other's arms. But the months leading up to this night were different. I used to describe it as his internal light turning off. He tried to become someone unrecognizable to me. He did everything he could think of to make me hate him so that it would hurt less in the end.
Oh how he underestimated the light in his eyes and how heavenly it felt to be on the receiving end. Oh how he underestimated the peace I felt at the sound of his voice. Oh how he underestimated how good it felt to intertwine my soul with his.
Despite all his efforts to push me away, to protect me, I always knew they would fail. There was a time when every time my phone rang, I’d flinch. Constantly fearing that it would be this night. He was pushing me towards the outskirts of his life and I was constantly yearning for more. I wanted so much more.
I remember zooming down the road, only occasionally respecting stop signs. I kept calling him, desperate for an answer; for any confirmation that he was still alive; confirmation that I still had time. I feel like I called him a hundred times in that seven minute drive to his house.
I was muttering to myself in the car, “It’s okay Daniel, I’m right here baby. I’m coming. I’m almost there.” I kept muttering to myself, almost begging the universe to transport my message.
I made the left turn onto his street. That was my first mistake. I ran into his house through the garage. I kept screaming his name in desperation. I checked the washrooms. I checked the medicine cabinets. Nothing looked out of place.
I turned out of the house with the despairing realization that I had chosen the wrong place to look for Daniel. As I turned to head out the door, Daniel’s best friend called me. He also received a suspiciously timed proclamation of love through text. I didn’t need to fill him in. He already knew where my mind was. We were talking it over on the phone.
Where should we look? Where would Daniel go?
The thing is: I was at the train tracks that night. I walked towards the hole in the fence where Daniel had taken me before. I stood there and yelled his name into the abyss. No answer.
Aren’t you supposed to have this sense when the people you love are in trouble? Like some sort of feeling or pit in your stomach? We used to always say, “We must’ve been created from the same stardust.” The galaxies he had in him were also bursting inside of me. That’s why my soul instantly felt at peace with his. It had been travelling through time and space to find him again.
But the answer is, no. I did not feel a pit in my stomach or something aching in me to stay. My second mistake that night was leaving the hole in the fence.
I kept driving around aimlessly with the windows down on that cold winter's night. I met up with Daniel’s friends at the McDonalds where Daniel worked at the time. I think we were all desperately crossing our fingers that he would just walk through the door nonchalantly for his overnight shift. It wasn’t long before we decided to split up. Divide and conquer every spot we suspected Daniel could be. I decided to head back to his house.
Julianna was out at a party that night. She had called her parents, so they were vaguely in the loop of what was happening. I didn’t want Daniel’s mom at home waiting alone while her husband went to pick up Julianna.
When I got to Daniel’s street, I noticed two cop cars parked on the road. I entered the house through the garage and I was welcomed by a barking Oliver. I picked him up and headed to the kitchen table where I saw Daniel’s parents seated across from two police officers. Daniel’s mom, Anne Marie, told me to sit down.
“You sit down. You’re the one that’s crying,” I said with a voice as nonchalant as a spring day’s breeze. Nothing about this situation was raising alarms in my head. Not yet.
I turned to the officers, “There’s about seven of Daniel’s friends driving around looking for him. Do you guys need a picture to help find him?”
Anne Marie told me to sit down more sternly this time. I obliged- you can’t deny a crying mother’s demands twice.
They all exchanged looks. The officer began to speak. He started off matter of factly; mentioning that a young male’s body had been recovered from the train tracks.
I said the next few words without skipping a beat or dropping the emotionless expression on my face, “How soon can we see the body?”
The officers shifted glances. Silence filled the room. I continued, “That’s what you need right? Someone to identify the body and tell you it isn’t Daniel?”
The officer looked at me with begging eyes, realizing that I was not about to accept Daniel’s death easily. He tried an alternate route, “Have you called Daniel this evening?”
“Of course. I am looking for him.” I almost rolled my eyes. How is it that me and Daniel’s friends have scavenged the area more than the York District Police?
He continued, “The body we recovered had several missed calls from someone named Katherine…,” his voice trailed off.
I felt lightheaded. I had never mentioned my name. He was still talking but at this point, I had retreated into myself. Not because I believed it to be true. That painful realization didn’t quite hit until long after.
My phone rang and jolted me back into the present. It was JON. He was calling from the hill. The boys were still out looking for Daniel. Anne Marie told me to tell the boys to come here. I told JON to make his way to the house but I must’ve not said it aloud because he was still rambling. I ushered my voice back to my body and said the next words carefully, “ JON. Come to the house.”
I met all the boys on the driveway and led them into the house in silence. When the room was filled and the boys faces’ were desperate for an answer, Anne Marie stood up with Oliver in her arms and she recounted what the officers had said.
She ended with three little words, “Daniel is dead.”
What a cruel and ugly combination of words.