6. looking forward, looking back.
I somehow made it through four years of high school in that Hell Hole. Graduation Day felt like what Church described the Gates of Heaven to be - pure bliss. It was the last time I would ever have to see my bullies Lisa*, Megan*, or their minions ever again. From Graduation Day forward, their existences would take place only in my memories, a place I was ready to wash clean.
July 22, 2006 was the day of my high school graduation party at the Chart House restaurant. I had been to the Chart House with my family before and melted over the City skyline views. The waterfront restaurant was situated right near the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal that took visitors across the Hudson River to New York City, my parents preferred method of travel when my sister and I were young.
As a family, we’d take the Ferry to 39th Street in Midtown and hop a taxi to FAO Schwarz where my sister and I would argue over who got to play the giant floor piano first. I loved watching the ferry drift through the water as we progressed toward our destination, knowing a fun filled adventure awaited us on the other side.
From the restaurant, you could watch the ferries come in and out to the port. While comfortably seated, diners could watch as the people waved from the bottom floor of the ferry, excited to make their arrival. The familiar horn would always startle me as it blared in the distance.
At the party, we filled ourselves with food from the elaborate buffet that lined the glass perimeter. Music filled the room and drinks filled the adults. I watched from my seat as Jen and her boyfriend danced to the song “Confessions” by Usher, a memory that’s still burned in my brain. I envied the way Kofi smiled at Jen, the way his eyes turned soft when he looked at her. He was just a cool dude- handsome, popular, kind hearted, compassionate. He was one of those guys that made other guys look like fools by simply being himself.
One month later, we would be leaving for our freshman year of college. Jen would be attending the University of Hartford in Connecticut, fulfilling her dream of becoming a nurse. This felt like a natural next step for someone who deeply cared about others. It was a choice I remember playfully laughing at, thinking “of course you’d do that!”
As the night was coming to a close, my dad gathered all of my friends in front of the humongous glass windows that overlooked the water, forcing a group photo. I was irritated at how embarrassing it was that he was making us pose for a picture, something I would thank him for years later. I had no idea of knowing it at the time, but the view from that window overlooks where Jen would go missing from three days later.