My 23rd year was kicked off with a tumultuous birthday weekend in Port Sable. Despite an amazing first night with three of my best friends, the rest of the weekend didn’t go as planned. The first day, the day of my actual birthday, my boyfriend Felix arrived just in time to ignore me, opting to watch a soccer game with some of my friends. Actually, that part of the weekend turned out great. His team lost. By a lot. And my best friend Cynthia and I spent an exciting afternoon exploring the small local shops, mutely cheering their defeat. Then we returned all gracious and didn’t say a word.

The second night, we had a lot more people come up to the cottage, including the psychotic landlord. In the middle of the night, he appeared in the window, counting how many people we had sleeping over. He attacked the door with his right crutch, angrily informing us that we were over capacity. He even charged us an extra fee! It was straight out of a horror movie. I still have nightmares about Crutchy.

At least those two days made for some fun memories to look back on in the end.

The third day was different, though. On the third day, tragedy struck. A group of us had walked to the beach, and we had just begun heading back to the cottage when my phone rang. It was my mom. Her voice was sad, with a strange urgency to it. She reminded me not to drink too much and to be careful in the water. My mom’s not that kind of mom. Something was wrong. Finally, she explained that my third cousin Briana and her husband Omar were in Niagara Falls for the long weekend. Apparently, Omar had decided to dive into a canal nearby for fun with a couple of buddies. He’d drowned.

“What do you mean, ‘drowned’?” I frowned, picturing him in a hospital bed.  She couldn’t mean drown, drowned, could she? He was in an accident, but he was going to be fine. I was trailing far behind my group of friends now, with only my good friend Paul beside me. He’d glanced sideways at me at the sound of the word in question. I hoped my mom misused it.

“He died.” My mom said through muffled tears. “The current was too strong. He couldn’t get his balance. He’s gone.”

I was shaking. I was shaking all over. Cold chills kept running up and down my spine. How could Omar be gone? I had just seen him at my grandparents’ anniversary party last summer. I’d been to their wedding two summers before. I saw pictures of him last week on Facebook! He couldn’t be gone. He wasn’t sick. He was a young, able-bodied person, with the rest of his life ahead of him. He was only a few years older than me! How could Briana be a widow at 28? None of it made sense.

“Alexis, what’s wrong?!” Cynthia asked, as I hung up the phone. She ran back to me and Paul.

“It’s really weird,” I spoke slowly, forcing myself to walk again. The hot sand burned the flats of my feet. “My cousin’s husband died.”

I hadn’t been trying to cause a scene. Nothing brings down a fun cottage weekend more than news of someone drowning. But I had to tell someone. I had to process it. Before I knew it, I was repeating the story to a small group of my friends, who had noticed. Then we walked in awkward silence. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What about Briana? Was she okay? Had she been there? How could she possibly be going through something like this? She must have more strength than I do. My heart shattered for her. What a terrible thing. Death.

As we walked the two blocks back to our cottage, I noticed Felix hanging back and sulking. A typical sight, lately. We waved off the rest of the group and decided to go for a walk around the block. I asked, “what’s wrong? Are you bummed about Omar?”

“Yeah.” He stared straight ahead. Felix had met Omar last summer, and they had gotten along well. “He was in the program I’m starting in September. I thought maybe I’d see him there. I don’t… I don’t understand.”

“Me neither,” I sighed, kicking a pebble on the sandy street.

“But I’m really pissed that you told the whole group about it like that.” He added in a low, threatening voice.

“What?”

“I’m your boyfriend,” he reminded me, “you should have told me first.”

“I’m sorry,” was my automatic reply. I’d been saying that a lot lately. “I was in shock. I still am. I just needed to let it out.”

“You didn’t think of my feelings.”

“Your feelings?!” I exclaimed as we headed back to the cottage. “Somebody died! This isn’t about you! Not everything is about you!”

Out of frustration, he placed his hands on my shoulders and shoved. I tripped over my flip flops and stumbled into my own car on the driveway in front of the cottage. This was too much. This was not going to be an isolated event, I could feel it. These types of fights were becoming all too common. I didn’t need this. If I didn’t stop it, it would only get worse.

“We’re through.” I snarled at him through gritted teeth.

Or, at least, that’s what happens in this version of the story.

2012

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