Part Two: Everyone’s Story: Chapter 5: Katie
It is with a heavy heart that I even dare to continue on with this book, but I know deep down inside that this is what Joshua would have wanted. It’s been a year since the incident. On the ten-year mark, halfway through his sentence, Joshua took his own life. The hardest part about it all is that I never even got to say goodbye. The officer said that on that fateful day, he and the rest of the guards were making their rounds and checking in on every inmate in their cells. When they reached Joshua’s cell they only saw a motionless figure slumped over in his cot. One of the officers banged his baton against the bars and called out to him to make sure he was alright, but there was no response.
“Inmate!” He tried calling out again, but there was still no response.
He called over another guard just in case and they unlocked the cell and went inside. They turned Joshua onto his back and well, the sight wasn’t too pretty. They said he had clearly been dead for a good amount of time and there was no way they could’ve saved him. That same day, I received a phone call from the prison and I answered thinking it was Joshua calling me with the good news.
“Hello?” I said expecting to hear a recording in response to me.
“Is this a Miss Katie?” An officer questioned.
“Uh, yes, speaking.”
“Katie, this is Officer Johnston down at the prison where your friend Joshua is being held, you see I have a bit of bad news concerning your friend.”
“What is it?” I was nervous and the officer kept pausing.
“I’m afraid that as of today, it seems that Joshua has taken his own life, I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this, Katie.”
I couldn’t speak.
“Katie, I know this is a lot to take in right now and I know you have a lot of arrangements to make so I’ll just leave you be. Whenever you’re ready you can call us back about the…plans or with any questions you may have or if you need any more…details or assistants.”
“ok.” My voice came out so small and shaky.
I hung up the phone and collapsed onto my bedroom floor in a heap of misery. I cried uncontrollably until I found it hard to even breathe. I could feel my chest tighten and what felt like my heart breaking and afterwards I just laid there no longer able to cry, no longer able to move, and I felt as if I couldn’t go on. I knew I had to be the one to notify his family, I was his sole emergency contact therefore no call would go out to his mom or his dad or his little brother. Justin. I had to tell Justin immediately, but I knew this would break him too. I couldn’t call him, this was far too much for a form of communication so impersonal, I had to drive down to his friend Max’s apartment right away. I knew that’s where I would find him at the time.
So, I picked myself up off of the floor and got into my car and drove as fast as traffic would allow me to go, all the way down to the city he now lived in. I parked poorly on the street about a block from the building, but I was in way too much of a hurry to care. I raced down the street and into the building not even bothering with the elevator. I ran. I ran all the way up the stairs, to the fifth floor where the apartment was located and down the hallway to the almost very last door. I knocked rapidly and when Max opened the door it was only then I realized how much of a mess I must’ve looked like. I hadn’t even bothered brushing my hair, I simply zipped up my jacket and threw on a hood. My face was most likely red and my eyes were probably puffy from crying. I definitely looked like a mess.
“Can I help you?” He asked as he looked me over curiously.
“Is Justin here?”
“Yeah.” He opened the door wider so that Justin could see that it was me standing in the doorway.
His head only visible from his place on the couch. “Jesus Katie, what are you doing here? Is something wrong?” He sprang to his feet and began walking towards the door. “Are you alright because you look like-”
“Joshua’s dead!” I cut him off as I burst into tears once again.
“WH-what?” He stammered. “You’re lying!”
I shook my head no and tried to fight back the tears once again. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry Justin.”
“NOOOOOOOOOO!” He screamed out, “NO!”
I held my arms out to him and motioned for him to come hug me. He walked towards me and I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him on the top of his shoulder. He was shaking violently. I knew it was out of both anger and sorrow. He clung to me desperately, it was the most heartrending scene one could ever imagine.
“We have to go okay? I’m taking you with me. We have to go right now.”
He didn’t respond, he just turned and walked toward his room and started silently repacking his sleepover bag. Once he finished packing he looked over at his friend and gave him a nod. He responded by holding his fist over his heart and returning the nod. Justin then closed the door and followed me to my car still not uttering a single word.
Once we got back to my place it was much of the same, complete and total silence. I took it upon myself to break up the silence.
“It happened today you know.” I started. “I got a call from an officer today and he told me that they found him in his cell and that it was apparent that he had taken his own life. I know it hurts right now, I know. You don’t have to say anything yet if you don’t want to. But I do want you to know that I’m here for you, you’re not going through this alone.”
“Was...” He took a deep breath, “was there a note? Any sort of an explanation? A goodbye? Anything?”
“I’m not sure, they only told me the minimum just so I had a general clue. I can always call them back and they’ll fill me in on any details.”
“I need to know if there was a note. I need to know, Katie! There is no way my brother, my only brother, my only sibling left this Earth without saying goodbye! There is no goddamn way!”
I could tell it was the situation he was enraged by and not me in particular so I decided to excuse myself to call back the prison and ask for more information.
“Hello, you’ve reached San Angeles Prison, Officer McFinnigan speaking.”
“Hi this is Katie, I received a call earlier from an Officer Johnston at this prison notifying me that one of the inmates and my best friend, Joshua Norte had committed suicide earlier today and I would just like a few questions answered.”
There was a short pause.
“Katie, you called back.” The officer I spoke to earlier answered.
“Yeah, I just needed to know if Joshua left a note or letter of some sort that maybe you or another officer found.”
“As a matter of fact, we were just cleaning out his cell and we found two letters, one addressed to you and the other to an uh, Justin. You can come by to pick them up along with his belongings anytime you’re ready.”
“Be there soon.”
I hung up and called for Justin to come outside, he still seemed extremely upset, but I let him know the deal and before I could finish my sentence he had already jumped in my car and we were off to the prison. We drove there in silence. I didn’t even turn on the radio out of fear that it would result in some sort of volatile reaction from him. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the prison. I thought it would be best if I just went in myself.
“Hi I’m Katie, I’m here to pick up Joshua Norte’s belongings.” I said to one of the guards.
He left and returned with a small box full of letters Justin and I wrote to Joshua throughout the years and books (one being his diary), and two envelopes addressed to Justin and I. I took the envelopes first and put them in my pocket and then grabbed the box and headed back to the car where Justin was waiting for me. When I reached the car, I put the box in my trunk and handed Justin his letter, we decided to sit in the car and read the letters first. The last words Joshua ever wrote. The last piece of him we would ever get. My letter read:
If you’re reading this, then just know I am so so so incredibly sorry. I know you were working so hard on trying to get me out of this place before I had to rot in here for ten more years and that you were finally able to submit an appeal, but I can’t do this anymore. I’ve lost all hope and as much faith as I have in you and your abilities, I don’t know what I’d do if the appeal was denied. Maybe I should have waited to see the outcome, but I’m just not strong enough anymore. I’m sorry, please don’t be upset with me. Either way this went, I was screwed, I thought about it and realized that even if I get out of here, it’ll be on my permanent record. It’ll say that I spent ten years in San Angeles prison because I was convicted of MANSLAUGHTER! Who will hire me then? What will I do then? Who will I become then huh?! I apologize if it feels like I’m taking this out on you, I don’t mean to, it’s just that I wanted you to get why I had to resort to this. It has absolutely nothing to do with you, this is in no way your fault, there’s really nothing you could’ve done. I’m sorry to put you through this, I really am, but I hope you know that I am eternally grateful for every single last thing you have done for me and I love you so much. Even though I had to go, you will always be my best friend in the whole entire world, it was supposed to be me and you until the end and I guess I kind of messed that up. But I know I’ll always be in your heart and I’ll still think of you every day from the other side where one day, hopefully not anytime soon, we’ll meet again. You are a wonderful person Katie, and I am so lucky to have met you. Since day one you were my partner in crime, but I just couldn’t bear to take you down with me on this one. Please, Katie don’t cry. You’ll be alright darling, you’ll do so many great things in life so go out there and spread all the love and kindness you have in your heart. The world needs so many more people like you in it. I love you so much!
After reading my letter I didn’t say a word, I just folded it back up, wiped my tears, started the car, and drove Justin and I home. That was definitely enough for the day for the both of us. That was enough for the week. Maybe it was enough for the rest of our lives. I certainly didn’t know how I’d come back from this.