Three to Life

by Lauren Simmers

If someone would’ve asked me where I would be three years from now, another memorial for another dead friend would be the last thing I would think of. Yet, here we are. It’s December and the nights are below thirty degrees now. Each person here emits a puff of smoke from their nose and mouth. For a second, it looks like something caught fire. Over three-hundred puffs of air.

He was only twenty-three.

I’m less than six months from that point in my life.

A shiver runs down my spine. My toes are starting to go numb and I have to keep sucking back in my runny nose. I guess I shouldn’t say anything. At least I can still feel something. At least I know that when I walk back into that house my toes will eventually unfreeze, going back to that sweet 98.6 degrees. His body will never be warm.

The prayers continue over the silent crowd. Tears fall from the faces of the grieving. I silently laugh to myself because no one looks attractive when they cry, but it does cause a chain reaction. One person cries, then ten, then fifty, then two-hundred.

I cry for different reasons. I cry for two lives lost, not just one. I cry the silent, sobbing tears for someone who will never be the same.

Nothing is black and white. Nothing perfectly fits into a category. They try to put him in one, but they have to break him to do that.


My phone chimed with a text. I did a double-take when I saw the name.


I haven’t heard that name since I graduated in May.

Lo, I’m so sorry. I know how close you were with Duncan and Kendal. If you need anything, just let me know.

I stared at my screen, my hands starting to shake. One thought entered my mind and I was shaking so hard that my teeth started to chatter.

What happened?

You don’t know?

What happened? Mal, you’re freaking me out!

There was one beat before she replied again: Fuck.

I hit the call button next to her name, my hands tremoring uncontrollably. “Mal, what’s going on?”

She sighed and took a breath before continuing. “Kendal and Duncan had a party last night and Kendal stabbed Duncan in the heart. Duncan is in the hospital in critical condition and Kendal was arrested.” Her tone was so matter-of-fact that it scared me.

I stared at my light gray bedroom wall for a couple seconds. I opened my mouth to speak and nothing came out. “W-what?”

“I know.”

“What are you talking about? How did this happen?”

“No one knows. I guess they were both drunk last night and they got into an argument about something and Kendal stabbed him.”

“Is this a joke? This is Kendal we’re talking about!” I yelled.

“I know. I’m so sorry. I’ll keep you updated with anything I hear. I’m here for you.”

We hung up and my body was shaking, like I was out in a blizzard with a short-sleeved shirt. My hands were clammy and sweating.

I sat on my bed just looking at the floor, memorizing it. My breaths were short and I felt like there wasn’t enough air in this place to breathe. One, two, three, four…I counted the microscopic strands in my beige carpet, trying to pull myself together.


The guy I’ve known since I was a freshman in college and went through Greek life together. The guy who I drank with on so many occasions. The guy who protected me from the assholes and the feelers. The guy who laughed at my dating disasters and walked me home at night. That guy did this?

There’s no way. They have the wrong person. The cops got the wrong name. A witness gave a false account. He’s taking the blame for someone. That has to be it.

The longer I sat there, the more I felt my body sag into my bed. My throat hurt at tears that were stuck in my eyes. There was nothing, except the cold and the numb.


My phoned chimed the next afternoon. Lo, Duncan passed away.

I stared at it, fear climbing up my throat.

I had been hoping and praying for another outcome. For both of them.

Duncan was so annoying when we were freshman. He was one of those people that discovered alcohol as soon as he entered college, so he was drunk every chance he got. His fraternity nicknamed him “Druncan.” Whenever someone would say his nickname, he would whine, “Nooo…guyssss.” He made a rollercoaster with his voice.

I liked him up until alcohol and weed consumed his life. He had a cute, smiley face with long, blond hair. He always said hi and used my name when he would pass me. I appreciated that. I liked that he used names. That was a lot different from the losers I graduated with.

I know in the last couple of years, he turned his life around and was working a lot harder at his grades. He joined a couple other organizations and tried to get as involved as possible. At his memorial, President Wilson said that The University of Akron would be giving his family a degree for Duncan in May. That was when he was supposed to graduate. He would’ve liked that.

It’s been uncomfortable around my friends since this happened. Last time I heard, Kendal’s charges now included murder along with felonious assault. Tim told me that Kendal didn’t even know Duncan died until he went to his arraignment. Tim said that when Kendal found out, he just put his head in his hands and wept. I wept too when I heard. I feel like a vessel for contained emotions. There’s too much of everything to get it out all at once. I’m slowly getting the toxins out. My doctor suggested bloodletting.


I talk to some fraternity friends that I trust about Kendal. The people who understand. We all agree that it was an accident and that we would back him up. That makes me feel better, to an extent. I’m sure the courts won’t see it the way we do.

I’ve been feeling so conflicted about everything. When you watch Cops or CSI: Miami, you clearly know which guys are the good ones and which ones are bad, but this time it’s different. I’m grieving for both of them. I know the person who killed him. And I know he killed him, but that didn’t stop me from asking everyone I knew about how he was. That didn’t stop me from texting him, saying that I’m here, even though I knew he wouldn’t reply. That didn’t stop me from checking on the internet to learn how to visit an inmate. That didn’t stop me from writing a letter to reach out in any way I could.

I don’t know how to deal with this. I’m not the same person I was a week ago. I’m more detached and I zone off, staring into space. I don’t think my mind can handle this. Kendal is one of my good friends. He has been for the past five years. And I hurt for him. I don’t know what his future is going to look like anymore.

Nothing is black and white. Nothing perfectly fits into a category. They try to put him in one, but they have to break him to do that.

Lauren Simmers is a first year fiction student in the NEOMFA program and can best be described by Tim as “totally killing the pale skin, blond hair, and red lipstick look. Kind of like Taylor Swift, but not a piece of cardboard.” When Lauren isn’t writing or doodling, you can usually find her giving exact change to her favorite hot chocolate joint Einstein Bros.