by Chris Okum

May be an image of one or more people, people standing, outdoors and textMelody walks with Daniel, as she's done every day for the entire second semester. As always, they talk about Daniel's home life, specifically his father's violent behavior and his mother's bizarre requests. They also talk about Daniel's lack of academic success, his paucity of friends, and his ongoing and acute despair about the future. Melody, as always, does her best to keep the mood light, re-directing Daniel when he gets too down, but today he doesn't seem amenable to her counsel. "I used to think life itself was the problem," says Daniel, "but now I'm starting to think it's me." Melody tells Daniel to look on the bright side of things. Daniel tells Melody it's no use. "I don't think we should do this anymore," says Daniel. "I appreciate what you've tried to do for me, though." Melody watches as Daniel walks off by himself. It will be the last time she, or anyone else, will ever see Daniel. Years later, as an adult, having forgotten almost completely about Daniel, Melody flashes on a memory of her and Daniel walking through a cemetery. She does not remember what was said, only that Daniel has a smile on his face. It is the last time she, or anyone else, will ever think of Daniel, and, as such, it is at this moment that the young man's brief existence on planet Earth truly comes to an end, in the mind of the only person he ever loved, as it should.