When I found out my friend died, I was holding a cheeseburger, fries and a plastic ramekin of mayonnaise. I was a college freshman, walking through a big white tent on my way back to the dorm. A grounds crew had assembled the tent for a charity fashion show, during which attractive people would raise money for kids with cleft palates. For now, the tent was empty and silent. It was raining, just like in the movies. My mom called my cell phone, and I sat on the edge of a wooden plank.
She said two words: “Henh’s dead.”
The William Fleming High School International Baccalaureate Class of 2006 was a tight-knit group. Separated from the other students since 6th grade, we had the same schedule and the same teachers for seven years.
We ate lunch together in a classroom with our history teacher, a short, sharp-tongued veteran whose lectures felt like military briefings. Over lunch, we had historical debates and watched “Chappelle’s Show” on a TV that was rolled in and out of the classrooms. Except for the divisive choice between Spanish or French in 7th grade, we spent all our school hours together.
As graduation approached, the IB students began to think about what school would look like without each other. We also began to pay closer attention to our rank. The valedictorian and the salutatorian would both speak at graduation: I was #1 and Henh was #2.
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