Life is a very funny thing. It's here one minute and gone the next. It's laughter and tears. It's hello and goodbye. We all hope that it will be long, but for some of us, it's cut short -- painfully short. My friend Alex "Stoska" Staroska committed suicide on November 29, 2010. It was a shock to everybody who knew and loved him. He was a seemingly happy guy. None of us were aware of the intense sadness lurking just under the surface of his smile.
Now, to be fair, I can't say I knew Alex all that well. We were in choir together and later on, summer school. We would sit and talk and not do our work in a tiny, freezing room of our high school. Our supervisor was often upset because we were never on task. Alex's complaint was that it was too quiet, so I'd let him borrow my iPod. Every day, he would "steal" it, usually with a remark about how often I updated my music library and a few suggestions of songs or artists I might like. When I first heard the news of Alex's passing, the first thought in my head was of our days in summer school. I was very upset, but I went to school the next day with dry eyes and a straight face.
This experience started November 30, 2010. I was in the school library, typing up a report. I was listening to my iPod, but only had one ear bud in. The library was dead quiet and nearly empty, but I still got that strange feeling that there was someone behind me. I assumed it was my teacher, but when I turned around to see what she needed, nobody was there. It happened a few more times, but I ignored it and kept working.
"Damn! You listen to some old music!"
I turned around to see who said that, but nobody was there. The area around me suddenly turned ice cold and my iPod began to shuffle through songs of its own free will. I was stunned to see song after song jump across the screen in quick succession. "Stoska...?" I mentally asked, trying my best to concentrate on my report. I heard a bitter laugh. My iPod paused momentarily on "Sugar Magnolia" by the Grateful Dead. "How's that for irony?" he asked derisively.
"Alex, what are you doing? You shouldn't be here, you should have crossed over."
"I don't want to." came his curt response. "Death...it's not all it's cracked up to be. It sucks, it really effing sucks. I have nowhere to go. Don't want to go home. Can't stand to hear people crying about me." he paused momentarily, "It's painful." I swore I heard his voice waver, as if he were about to cry.
I felt tears well in my eyes, but I fought them back. I had so many questions without answers, all which could be summed up into one simple word: "Why?"
"Why?" he repeated darkly, "because I'm an idiot." My iPod stopped its erratic shuffling phase, landing on the song "Under the Bridge" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Maybe this will explain it."
And with that, he was gone.
I didn't see high nor low of Alex until one day in mid-May. It was the Monday after prom, the notorious "senior skip day." I decided to follow tradition and not go to school. Instead of staying home and playing XBox like I very well could've, my boyfriend and I decided to go on a walk out of town. Our destination of choice was Dodge Hill, the place where Alex killed himself. On our walk down the hill, we were busy chatting away about this and that, not paying much attention to our surroundings. I happened to look up into the sky at one point and saw a massive eagle circling above.
"Holy crap Kiel, look at that eagle! It's huge!" I said, pulling my camera out of the pocket of my hoodie. I had tried to take several pictures, but the eagle always seemed out of reach. I shrugged and put my camera away, continuing my conversation with Kiel. However, the eagle continued to circle, flying just ahead of us, then back, circling, then flying ahead. I hadn't seen many wild eagles in my life, but I had a feeling this wasn't normal behavior. Every now and again, it would give a piercing cry, as if to urge us to walk faster.
Soon enough, Kiel and I began to approach the place where Alex killed himself. There's memorial there now; a metal cross bearing his name and date of birth and death. As we got closer, the eagle circled above us one last time before landing on the memorial cross. Kiel and I stopped in our tracks, just looking at it.
"It's a message." Kiel said shortly. I nodded in agreement. "What do you think he wants?" I asked. He shrugged and suggested we get closer. The eagle didn't move as we got closer, but at the last moment, took off into the sky. I pulled my camera out and took some pictures just before it circled above the cross, shot into the sky, and vanished into thin air. In retrospect, I believe the eagle was Alex's way of telling us he's alright. He left this world a troubled soul, but found peace on the other side.