This is quite possibly the first and arguably one of the most traumatic things that has happened in my life. There are few people in life that just get you. They come along at certain times in your life, when you need them most, and are there for you. Without them, you are completely and utterly alone. They complete you in almost every sense of the word. Now, I’m not saying she was my soul mate. I was ten and she was eleven, we were kids. But, she did have this calming presence about her. She was able to calm me down without even saying a word sometimes and just talking to her made a bad day better. After her death, I would close myself off entirely to friends. It would be twenty six years before I would meet someone who would put me at ease like that and he knows who he is. Allow me to introduce you to Tiffany Nichole Cox, my childhood best friend.
Westside Elementary, third grade was when we met. It was instant, we became locked at the hip. Wherever I went, she went. We would finish each other’s sentences, we were like two peas in a pod. Fast forward to fifth grade, I was ten and she was eleven, we were still inseparable. Then came that fateful day. It was just like all the others, except for one thing. I couldn’t go to her house and she couldn’t come to mine. Our parents thought we needed a break and stay at our own homes for the night. It would prove to be a night that I would still regret twenty six years later. While I was at home practicing piano and doing homework; trouble, deadly trouble, was brewing at Tiffy’s house.
What I didn’t know then was that she had a guy she liked over at her house. For the life of me, I can’t remember his name. Things always seem to start with a boy, don’t they? She wanted to jump on her parents bed since it got the most air. Their bed was the best for jumping, we’d done it a dozen times. When she went into their room, he was hot on her heels. She tried to move the gun without him seeing it. She tried real hard but he saw it. He wanted to hold it, so he took it from her. Now, any responsible and knowledgeable weapon owner knows how to hold and use one. You never point a weapon at someone unless you intend to shoot them. He took aim directly at her and there was only one round in the chamber. I, however, wouldn’t know anything until the next morning.
The way the bus route ran was that she and her sister, Tracy got on the bus before I did. When I got on the bus I found it a little strange that there was noise and talk until I got on and it got silent. I also didn’t see Tiffy or Tracy. Which was really weird. After inquiring why everyone was so quiet and getting asked why I was acting normal, I was handed a newspaper and on the front page was an article about a local girl that was shot and killed the previous night. Her name wasn’t listed. I remember thinking poor girl. Poor family. Little did I know, my world was about to be very shattered.
Once we got to school, they gathered us all in the gym for a talk. They proceeded to tell us about a classmate that was killed the previous night and that counselors would be on hand to talk to us. That’s when the whispers started. Whispers of my biggest fear, my best friend. When we were dismissed, I went up to our principal and asked who it was. My best friend, my biggest cheerleader, my right hand, my wingman, my partner in crime was dead. I lost it, at that moment. I couldn’t form the words and at the time, I didn’t want to know exactly how it happened. I would find out later exactly what happened. School had to call Joyce to come and get me because of how emotional I was.
A few days later came her viewing and funeral. During this time, I found out what happened. It seemed when Tiffy went to remove the weapon that her parents kept under the bed for protection, she tried to do it without him seeing, he spotted it. And when she didn’t move it fast enough he wanted to see the weapon. After looking at it, he then wanted to see if it was loaded. Instead of pointing it at the floor, he pointed it at her and fired. At point blank range she was shot and the wound was through and through with the round scraping her heart. The paramedics were called and by the time they reached the hospital she was gone. A girl that he supposedly liked, my best friend, he had killed.
At the viewing, she looked like herself. Like she was just sleeping. I was ten, I didn’t really understand. This was my first experience with death and most arguably one of the ones that has stuck with me. She had on a cream colored sheer dress that was slightly see through. Now, maybe see through isn’t the right word to describe this dress. When you viewed her, you could clearly see the bandage over the wound. It was a clear reminder of just why and what had taken her from this life. When I had had enough and needed some air, that’s when I saw him. He had the damn nerve to show his face. He had killed my best friend, shot her in cold blood in my opinion, and he had the nerve to show up to her funeral.
It was at that moment that I started to make a lunge for him. I was caught before I could get to him, I threatened to kill him. At that moment, I truly hated him. Looking back on it, I carried hatred for a long time that was unwarranted and it was an accident. So, if you’re reading this or ever read this, I’m sorry for that day and for hating you for nearly twenty six years. I know you’ve probably blamed yourself too, forgive yourself you were just a kid. You know who you are. She’s resting eternally underneath a shade tree atop a peaceful hill in Chattanooga with a nice view of the city below.
I’ve never forgiven myself for not being there that night. Also, for not trying to fight for having her spend the night with me. She would still be alive if we’d been together. Even though it’s been twenty six years, it’s something that I have trouble with. When I was ten, I couldn’t fight Joyce anymore than I could her parents; we were told we had to be separated for one night and it would be ok. If I had been there that night, could I have actually saved her? Or would I have been the one that died that night twenty six years ago? Of course I would’ve tried to wrestle that weapon from him or try to block him from seeing it. But would I have been successful?
Due to this, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t let anyone ever get this close to me again ever. It worked for a long time. Until one June day when I started working at Harris Teeter. I started to like one particular girl and decided to hang out with her outside of work and we just clicked. And after a few months, I found that she had chipped away some of that wall that I’d built up. We have gone on so many adventures and I cherish each one. A piece of the gaping wound that Tiffy had left was being filled. I found myself having a best friend for the first time in over a decade. I had finally found someone that I could be myself with and tell everything to, just like I did with Tiffy. She knows who she is. Then came you, you know exactly who you are.
This one filled a huge hole, arguably the rest of the hole left by Tiffy’s death. Like I said at the beginning of this post, Tiffy was the only one that had a calming presence on me not only by talking to me but just by me being around her. Well, so does he and for the first time in twenty six years if I’m finding myself with a day being more than I can handle, all I have to do is talk to him and my day is much better. Or just being around him, my day is made instantly better. We first met two years ago at our church Christmas play. And let me tell you, I was absolutely terrified to be on stage. That was the first time I noticed that he had the power to put me at ease. I think that is how I made it through.
When we connected after I checked in on my teacher friends, I realized just how much he helped me. And not just putting me at ease but calming and silencing the racing thoughts. Some of my darkest moments he’s been there for and our daily chats always bring a smile to my face. And a blush to my cheeks if I’m being honest. I truly don’t know where I’d be without both him and her in my life. God puts people in your life at certain times for certain reasons.
I’ve never forgiven myself or truly let go of Tiffy’s death. Maybe they were put into my life to show me that I can have friends that close without the fear; and let them in and be that close. And who knows, maybe something a little more with him. Tiffy would’ve liked him. And her, she would’ve liked them both. But my point is, maybe this is telling me it’s time. I can forgive myself and let go of all the pain, guilt, anger, and fear that is attached with her death. I have two amazing people in my life that have filled the void of someone that I’ve, I guess the best word to describe it is, refused to let go of for twenty-six years. Tiffy, I love you and I’ll never forget you as long as I live, but I’ve lived with your ghost for long enough.