Her name was Kate. We were classmates in an English class. She sat in the front row, always remarking on how arguments should be formed in a paper or sharing that based on her extensive experience, she was right.
I had met so many versions of her type, the English majors ones who love to argue, who thrive on filling classrooms with the sound of her voice. But she had an opinion when I was still trying to form my own.
It was still early in the quarter when our professor walked in and pointed to the chair she always sat in. “So Kate…” he trailed, “died.” Died. It was as if there were no other words in that sentence, his gesture enough to explain her permanent absence. The word punched the air and hovered over us. Died.
It was bacterial meningitis, it took over so quickly that within days of becoming sick she passed. She was young, maybe a year or two older than I was, but certainly not old enough for that.
What I thought of then and a memory that still surfaces now was what happened the week before she died. Kate and I had walked toward the bus stop, not intentionally together but obviously in the same direction. We were still waiting to cross the street when our bus appeared. We looked at each other, an unspoken agreement that now, now we would have to move or we would miss our ride home.
And we ran, one foot in front of the other, our heavy bags swinging around our bodies, lungs expanding like accordions within our chests, we laughed as we reached the bus door and the driver chided us for being late. Kate and I looked at each other before taking separate seats, exchanging silent congratulations. Our faces were red and we exhaled heavy breaths. We should have been applauded for the effort, for sprinting the way young people can, our reckless bodies galloping on concrete, each step a proof of life.