Behind My Sycamore III.

Some photographs contain stories that are much harder to tell, that you wish didn’t have to be told.  This is one of those.  After beginning my home town documentary, it didn’t take long for me to know that this image had to be made.  On a hot July day, I jumped in my Sebring and drove one country block over to this particular telephone pole down 16.

Mohawk High School class of 2012 graduated with 56 but it should have been 57.  Two weeks before graduation, in an attempt to not be counted tardy, one member of our class was speeding to school down a back country road.  I remember that morning quite vividly, I remember standing by my locker excitedly talking to my friends, everyone was, the bell had yet to ring and summer was within our reach.  I remember the power going out briefly, which was odd because it was a sunny May morning, but not really thinking twice about it.  Then I remember hearing a girl ask about Audy, knowing that if she was late just one more time she wouldn’t be able to graduate with us.

First period was normal, so was second.  I walked into third period, however and immediately knew something wasn’t right.  The same girl who I had overheard that morning wondering where Audy was was sitting at her desk in tears.  She kept saying that Audy should be here by now and that she wasn’t responding to any of her texts.  Not five minutes later, the entire high school was called down to the performing arts center.  They didn’t have to say anything, we all already knew.  Walking into a room full of teachers crying confirmed our worst fear.  After oversleeping, in an attempt to make it to school on time, Audy lost control while speeding and wrapped her car around an electric pole halfway down County Road 16.  The moment the lights flickered that morning was the moment of impact.

We all knew.

I walked into fourth period, she sat in the same row three seats up from me.  Everyone was silent, the entire school was mute.  Nobody even made eye contact with one another.  Things literally stopped.  I don’t remember taking exams, I don’t think we did.  The last two weeks were a joke, nothing happened.  We didn’t have school the day of the funeral, nobody would have came anyway.

I took her senior pictures, I did that for a lot of people in my class.  It was a scorchingly hot day in July.  I remember this because my mom packed us a cooler full of water bottles so that we would stay hydrated.  Audy was wearing a white, eyelet, cotton, halter neck, sundress without any shoes.  We walked through the woods and I photographed her holding fake flowers in a creek.  I can’t take pictures there anymore, it feels like a bad omen.  After she died, they ordered buttons with those pictures on them.  Still to this day mines pinned to the bulletin board of my room at my parents.  Suddenly those pictures were all anybody had and I was giving copies away left and right.  I walked into the visitation and was greeted by them hanging everywhere.  This young, vibrant, girl’s senior pictures suddenly became a memorial I had never intend on creating.  They fill a page in my senior yearbook beside a poem written by another student in honor of her life.

My last memory of her was leaving my senior prom.  I was getting in the passenger seat of my then boyfriend’s car.  Her sister, who was picking her up, had parked right beside us.  Audy looked at me and said “You look really beautiful tonight”.  That’s it.  That’s the last exchange of words we had.

Graduation was weird.  The normally joyous celebration was plagued with the fact we were missing somebody.  Somebody who was so obviously present in every bodies lives.  We sat through a slideshow of the senior pictures I took while wearing the buttons displaying those very same images.  Her family accepted her diploma and unlike most graduation ceremonies the tears weren’t ones of happiness.

In the days, weeks, months, following the accident, the electric pole on 16 was turned into a makeshift memorial with pictures and flowers and empty beer cans from those who went there to drink.  It’s been cleaned up since then, but one thing remains, a small wooden cross with her name written in sharpie.

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