Note: This was supposed to run two days ago on the actual 5-year Paroxy-versary, but there was someone I felt I needed to speak with first.
Being that it’s our 5-year anniversary, I figured I’d tell a story about something that happened 5 years ago. I may wind up telling you more about myself than I planned to in the process, but here goes.
The story actually starts a little further back. In the summer of 2000, I was in my fifth year of sleepaway camp (Yes. I am one of those. A lot of us Jewish people do that kind of thing in the summers). It was the first year I was old enough to play in the camp’s version of the NBA, and as one of just four people in my age group deemed talented enough (back in my pre-knee surgery days, I could actually kind of play) to be in that league rather than being stuck in the NCAA – which was for my age and the year younger – I was crazy nervous before my first game. As if that weren’t enough, they were holding the games at night rather than during the day-time activities, so everybody my age and older would be there watching. Luckily for my mental health at the time, my game was on the far court – the one where there were no bleachers for fans; the other campers, as well as our counselors and the camp administrators. I could just play, and if I sucked, at least it would be in relative anonymity.
I won’t bore you with the details of the game, but my team won, and I scored a whole bunch of points, 20-something. I was pretty proud of myself for holding my own, and for succeeding beyond what could have been expected of me as one of the youngest players in the league. But then I remembered that nobody probably saw it happen, and I was pretty sure that nobody really cared, because I found out after the game was over that on the close court - the one with the bleachers and all of the fans – someone was busy pouring in 46 points, from seemingly all over the floor. I was so sure nobody had seen and nobody had cared, until a girl I’d never seen before came up to me and said, “Hey Dubin. You’re pretty good.” Her name was Carol, and the guy who scored 46 points with everybody watching was her brother. I had no idea how good a friend she would eventually become.
Over the next few summers, we hung out all the time. Her family was from the same town as my group of close friends I already had at camp, so when I visited everyone on some weekends during the school year, I’d make sure I saw them too. We’d talk online a lot (in the AOL Instant Messenger days!) and sometimes we’d talk on the phone, back when people still used their phones to call each other instead of just texting. By the time we each went off to college, we were really good friends.
In the fall of 2006, I made a plan in my head to visit Arizona State to see Carol and a few other close friends who went there. I never wound up making the trip, but I really, really, really wish I had. Because a little more than five years ago, on February 18, 2007 to be exact, on her 20th birthday, Carol – along with another friend I had made through her – was shot and killed. Her roommate’s ex-boyfriend sat in the parking lot all night waiting for her to get home, and on the walk from her car to her apartment door, he shot her. He chased down the other girl, Nicole, who had started running once she saw what happened, and he shot her too. And then, like a coward, he turned the gun on himself.
I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out. I was sitting in my room in my fraternity house about to fire up my XBOX to play one of my friends in Madden (See? I told you I’d wind up telling you more about myself than I probably wanted to. Now you know I was a sleepaway camp/fraternity/Madden-addict kid. And sorry, mom and dad, for playing so much Madden instead of always going to all my classes). One of my friends walked into my room, and the first thing he said to me was, “Two girls from my high school died last night.” Knowing that I had a lot of friends from his high school, I asked who they were, and what had happened. When he told me, I was crushed. I kicked everyone out of my room. I called my parents, and told them I need a flight home. When they asked why, I told them, and they were crushed too. I had an exam the next day. I skipped it. I had an interview for a summer internship the day after. I skipped that too. I flew home to be with my friends, to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of two of our own.
The funerals were a madhouse. There were – it seemed – multiple thousands of people in attendance. There was nowhere to sit and there was nowhere to stand. There were just too many people there. By the time I got there, about half an hour early for the services, there was a line out the door to get inside. I gathered with my friends and none of us said anything for a while. We went through the motions of the day, listening to our other friends, and our fallen friends’ families, talk about our friends and their lives and their spirit and the horrible way they were taken from us. Everybody, everywhere, was crying. Except me. I had never been a crier. And then we went to the cemetery and we put them in the ground. And that’s when I cried. I realized I’d never see my friends again, and it was just too much to handle.
I went back to school after that and I carried on with my life for a while. I didn’t forget about what happened to my friends, but eventually I was able to deal with it. And for the rest of the school year, I thought I was fine, all things considered. But when I came home for the summer, a weird thing starting happening to me. I often found myself unable, or unwilling, to get out of my car and walk to the door at night. It sometimes took me upwards of 10 minutes of just sitting with my hands on the steering wheel, gearing myself up, building up the strength and the will to get out of the car and sprint as fast as I could to the garage door, to do it. I don’t get scared of many things, but I was absolutely terrified of that walk from the car to the door.
Eventually, as before, I was able to deal with it. It’s been more than 5 years now, and that walk is not a problem for me anymore. Sometimes when I get home particularly late, and it’s particularly dark, I feel just a twinge of fear on that walk. That twinge reminds me of what happened, but it also takes me back to that day in 2000, when a girl I had never met before came up to me and made my day just a little bit better. So I smile a bit, and I finish that walk. But I still – and always will – miss my friend.
Next month, I’ll attend The 2nd Annual 3-on-3 Love & Basketball Tournament in New York City in honor and remembrance of my friends. The proceeds from tournament entry fees will go to foundations made in their names, which help fund the Long Island Crisis Center, Love – Leave Out Violence, and Project Morry.