I thought about Riki last week.

I’m not really sure why. She and were never that close. She was just a girl I went to school with. I remember she liked horses and could come off as sort of a tomboy sometimes. I also remember that she was always nice to me, so that counts for something. I couldn’t tell you her favorite song or her favorite color, though.

I can’t even remember the date of the day she died.

Riki never struck me as a sad person. Sure, she could be emotional, but this was high school. Every girl could be emotional from time to time. At some point, though, Riki became so depressed she didn’t feel as if she could deal with life anymore.

So Riki took some pills, and she died.

This was my first brush with suicide. I had heard the word before, but I had never known anyone who actually went through with the act. Had I known her better, I’m sure it would have affected me more than it did. Still, even all these years later, I think about Riki from time to time.

And I wonder if I could have done anything to help her.

You have to understand, in high school, I was a mess. I was painfully shy, and I had a head full of unruly, curly hair that I didn’t know what to do with. Through a combination of bad sports experiences and the fact that no girl had any romantic interest in me whatsoever, I was depressed, even though I didn’t know what that word meant yet. I couldn’t even take care of myself, much less offer comfort to anyone else.

Could I maybe have talked to Riki a little bit more, though? Could I have cracked a few more jokes when she was around? Could I have not been so shy that we barely had any relationship at all? Could I possibly – possibly – have said something to her that would have made her not want to swallow those pills that day?

I have no idea what the answers to those questions are. And I never will know for sure.

What did Riki’s death mean to me? Probably not what it should have. This was a tragedy, plain and simple. A beautiful, smart, young girl chose to take her own life. Who knows what she would have become or the lives she would have touched if she had lived? All I knew back then was that her death made some of my good friends very sad. What I know now is that it makes me very sad, too.

This all occurred in the days before social media and blogs and all these platforms where we can publicly pay tribute to the fallen. I don’t know if I even told my friends how sorry I was for their loss back then. Today, though, I can say the following words and mean them with all my heart…

Rest in peace, Riki. You are missed.

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