Like another unexpected journey, mine began with those words. I was escaping, trying to distract my mind from events from the night before, with Cat. I could either escape into a book, or a movie with Chris and Becca, to the war-ridden countryside of Andor, or into the Shire. My opinion of the Rings movies aside, I chose the Shire. As I was getting ready, Someone with a sick sense of humor prompted Erika to text me, ask what I was doing, and decide to tag along. I was grateful for her company, but didn't know how it would affect the rest of the evening.
The new Hobbit movie, what I saw of it, is entirely decent. The opening sequence that shows the history of the Dwarven people and their struggle against the dreaded dragon, Smaug, is breathtaking, and really sets a tone for the movie that impressed me to no end. As an old Bilbo Baggins finishes his narration, the movie's title becomes clear as An Unexpected Journey.
Erika arrived late, moments after Becca broke out some candy and distributed it to Chris and I. I munched on Sour Patch Kids while dwarves sang and threw plates. Time and sarcastic comments passed, and Becca received a phone call when the dwarves were singing a dirge, a funeral song. She slipped away, coming back after the song saying that we needed to leave, flailing her hands about.
I didn't know why the urgency, but Chris launched himself from his chair to follow her. Followed by Erika, I was next out of my seat. The aisle to the back of the theater could have been miles long, I couldn't fathom what might be happening, so I ran, trying to catch up. Even though the door was far away, I raised my hand, ready to throw it open.
I couldn't get a word out before Becca, now in tears, said "Shawn might be dead." I stopped. Erika stepped out of the theater behind me. The look in her eyes told me she didn't hear. Chris half ran down the hallway to the exit.
It was cold, but I couldn't feel it. Erika padded along behind we three, racing for the car. "What happened," she asked. I was privately grateful she didn't ask who died. I told her. "Shawn might be dead." she stopped.
She hesitated, I can't imagine what was going through her head. Shawn was her first love. They met when she was twelve, she started to have feelings for him at fourteen, they dated for over five years. And now, Shawn might be dead. I can't, and won't pretend to know what she was feeling, thinking, but If it was anything close to the feeling of drowning, by that point in the day, that's how I felt.
I don't think she had a choice. We were rushing for the car, telling her to make the decision as to whether she was coming with us or not. We promised her we would return her to her car, something we didn't do, now that I'm thinking about it.
Tires and the timing belt squealed as we pulled out of the parking lot. Chris' knuckles popped as he gripped the steering wheel, I imagine he was fighting to keep himself from speeding; getting pulled over on our way wouldn't have helped. For those of you who don't live in Salt Lake, I'm going to tell you something about it, as it relates to travel: we have mastered quantum travel. Everything, no matter your beginning point, or your end, is twenty minutes away. Whether you're going down the street to the 7-Eleven for a beer, or going across the valley to find out if Shawn is dead, you're twenty minutes away. This leaves lots of time for silence, awkward chatter about upcoming homework assignments, making bad, desperate, jokes, and to realize that Green Day's Welcome to Paradise was playing on the radio. Again, Someone has a sick, fucked up sense of humor.
There were about four police cars parked outside, but only two officers inside. A woman shaped roughly like a barrel, with a kind face and a soft southern accent, and a bored-looking man. They wandered between the kitchen, the living room where we sat, and downstairs, where Shawn might-or-might-not be dead. The police were fighting with some doctors over the phone in the other room. In her southern drawl, we heard her say that they needed someone to sign his death certificate. Our heads snapped as one to the wall separating us from the officer.
"So, he's gone," Chris said.
That's how we found out. A police officer arguing with a doctor over the phone in the other room. That very same Someone that gathered the four of us together to go see An Unexpected Journey, who played Welcome to Paradise in the car was somewhere laughing.
That same officer asked Chris and Erika questions. Lots of questions. Endless. Fucking. Questions. I listened to their stories, little facts that I didn't know, and many I did. His middle name was Sterling. He didn't take care of his Diabetes very well. His parents were pieces of shit. His last interaction with the police was over a dollar of soda, a refill, that was started with a loss-prevention lady at Harmons that the male officer characterized as a "Nazi." He was in the ICU days before for spiking blood sugar. He met Chris in Gym class, freshman year of high school. He would often have seizures, causing his blood sugar to plummet, and afterward he would either be simply unresponsive or comatose. Nobody had seen him since Thursday. Slowly we realized that Becca was the last person to see him alive. She fed him, gave him some money, and took him to Workforce Services. She let him know that there are people in the world that care about him.
By the time the Meical Examiners arrived, I still couldn't believe he was dead. We hadn't been allowed to see him, so I expected the MEs to go downstairs and find him smiling, playing a game of Magic, and bullshitting while sipping at a giant cup of Diet Coke. They were downstairs for about fifteen minutes before I heard zipping sounds. I'd never appreciated the harshness of the sound, before, but they punched me all over my body. I had the mental image of them zipping him into one of those black bags you see in movies. As it turns out, that is exactly what they were doing, except that the bag was blue.
When you want to take someone and throw them somewhere they don't want to go, like a swimming pool, or whatever, you pick them up by their hands, and have someone else pick up their feet. They came upstairs burdened with the blue bag. It was obviously full, and I knew Shawn was in it, instead of downstairs telling stories and laughing. I wondered what side of the bag held his head. I wondered which end of the bag held what I'm convinced was the still-smiling face of my friend.