Jojo – Sierra Armor
April 13, 2021
Yesterday my best friend died, and today I’m contemplating whether that’s an adequate excuse to sit out gym class.
“Best friend” is a stretch. Jojo invited me over to her house once in middle school, making her the only person I was ever close with, because nobody had ever done that before, and nobody would again.
Right now, I’m sitting on a bench in the girl’s locker room. All of the benches, including the one I’m sitting on, are perpetually smeared with period blood. I feel like I’m on the set of a slasher pic, except the blood is real.
God, women are so disgusting- spilling and leaking everywhere. They do it verbally too. I’m not like the rest of them, I can contain myself. I’m sixteen and, miraculously, I’ve never had my period, and my hymen is so intact I don’t even know what a hymen is.
My gym teacher, Miss Hamilton, is androgynous and not in a hot way. Androgynous isn’t the right word at all. What I mean is that she doesn’t look like a woman. Maybe the right word is anthropomorphic because she looks a bit like the Chuck E Cheese mascot.
On a normal day, Miss Hamilton would order me to run laps, and I would toy with the idea of pointing out that she’s borderline obese.
I don’t truly consider saying that. When I tell her my best friend excuse, she’s skeptical. What kind of sixteen year old has a dead best friend?
I go with the rest of the class to the tennis court, but Miss Hamilton lets me sit to the side. I pull out my decomposition book, the ridiculous one with flying sharks on the cover.
When I learned about Jojo’s death, my immediate thought was Something deep to write about, finally.
That’s not exactly true. I’m making myself out to be way too callous.
I was at marching band rehearsal. We were playing Pomp and Circumstance obnoxiously and nearly missed the big announcement.
A woman’s voice on the intercom said, “Last night, one of our Astros passed from this world to the next. Jojo Stevens was only sixteen years old… ” I don’t remember the wording exactly.
The news gave me a stomachache, but that was just shock. The grief still hasn’t hit yet, perhaps later.
“Let’s have a moment of silence,” the intercom said.
Some kid kept blowing upbeat jazz tunes into his trombone.
I glared at him. In almost the tone of a brag, I told him, “That was my best friend who just died.”
This next part is very honestly completely true and only interesting if you believe me.
The last time I talked to Jojo, it was on the school bus. I sat next to her, and she didn’t seem too pleased about it.
She stared at her turquoise iPod touch, took a rip of her Juul, and completely forgot to address my presence.
“A senior told me a joke during band camp. Wanna hear it?” I ask.
“Yeah, sure. Not really,” Jojo said, not taking her eyes off her iPod.
I told her an annoyingly long anti-joke about a boy who’s allergic to strawberries. It went on for ages, only for the boy to pointlessly get hit by a car in the end.
Before I got to the anti-punchline, she shoved her way out of the bus seat and got off at her stop.
As the bus pulled away, that’s when the SUV hit her.
Funny, isn’t it? And it really did happen that way.
Rumor has it, her face got bruised beyond recognition, so they wouldn’t let visitors into the hospital. When I try to imagine what “bruised beyond recognition” looks like, I think of a mushy, half-eaten plum.
Two days later, Jojo was dead.
I hadn’t been invited to Jojo’s birthday party earlier in the month, but I did get invited to her wake. Sort of.
The whole class got to know the address of the funeral home.
“It’s this Sunday. Everyone should show up wearing converse shoes, and the girls should all wear big, purple bows in their hair, because that’s how Jojo always dressed,” says Alyssa, Jojo’s actual best friend.
I get home from school, drop my oversized backpack on the kitchen floor, and run upstairs.
“Mom!” I call, “We need to go to the outlets later!”
My mother, from inside the bathroom, yells, “Can’t.”
“I need to! It’s for a funeral.”
“What?!” She exits the bathroom. “Whose funeral?”
“My best friend’s.”
“Who’s your best friend?” She pauses, then corrects herself, “ I mean, who was your best friend.”
My mother starts to tear up, looking at me compassionately, placing her hand on my shoulder.
“Why are you crying? It’s not like you knew her. Mom, she was my best friend, and I’m not even crying because I’m totally aware that death is inevitable.”
She’s choking up now. “W-w-why is the funeral at the outlets?”
“It’s not. I need a pair of converse, a purple hair ribbon, and a really nice black dress. I plan on celebrating Jojo’s life and honoring her short existence. In order to do that, I gotta look really nice.”