Sunday, December 19, 2010

Big Red Backpack.

Zachary Manago died on December 17, 2010.

I do not want to believe the authenticity of the above statement. I want to believe that I will see zach around downtown with his big red backpack, his goofy grin, and his blossoming crush over a girl named nicole. I want to believe that at the next tuesday night ride (TNR), zach will be there riding an absurd gear ratio on his track bicycle. most of all, I want to believe that zach is alive.

the first time I met zach was in downtown honolulu. he waved at me while I was riding by the bus stop on his way home from school. the second time I saw zach was at TNR, and he was there almost an hour earlier then the meet-up time. “I was studying at starbucks,” said zach with his big red backpack and goofy grin.

a few TNRs together and I began to know zach as a person. zach was curious about my profession -messenger- and why I always had a pen on my shoulder strap. I explained to him that secretaries often did not have a pen readily available to sign for packages.

that evening’s ride a group of us ran a red light and kept going as the sheriff’s vehicle flashed lights. zach and his friend stopped and were given a stern lecture about the dangers of riding bicycles at night.

after a successful overnight around the island bicycle ride in september everyone began planning for a follow-up. as each TNR grew in newcomers with ambitious bicycling enthusiasm it became obvious that the next overnight island ride was to be grand. the plan was to ride on the very last day of college examinations - december 17th- so that everyone could participate without the worry of school.

having never accomplished such a lengthy bicycle ride, zach was one of the first kids to express his involvement. everyone had to be well-lit and helmets were very much encouraged. it was explained to everyone that for safety we all had to ride as a group. zach showed up with his big red backpack, goofy grin, and “hi” helmet.

the first thing I asked zach that evening when I saw him was “did you ask nicole out yet?” zach grinned and said that he was “working on it, I was busy with finals.” it was zach’s first semester of college, after all.

as the evening progressed it became apparent how difficult it was to keep a group of almost forty bicyclists together. zach and a group of kids rode in the front of the pack while I stayed behind to accompany those less speedy. on the hill headed towards wahiawa everyone split up in wide spaces. as aly and I made it to the top of the hill I saw vance frantically waving his arms and saying “zach got hurt...its really bad.”

it was at that moment that I watched in disbelief as my friend zach gasped the last breaths of air in this life.

the road was shattered in debris, including the headlight bulbs of the vehicle that hit zach and ran away. zach’s bicycle was folded in nearly half the size. nearby there laid a piece of zach’s big red backpack. the next few hours became a surreal blur of ambulances, police, and friends attempting to support each other despite our collective grief.

today is sunday. and it has been two days since zach died. I have been through every possible emotion from sadness to anger and now denial. the logical side of my brain is telling me that none of these doubts will ever bring zach back. and that is what frightens me the most, to admit that zach is gone.