He’s my friend, that skinny lanky, pale freckled shrimp-boy—his brown doe eyes and his crop of brown hair he flips aside with a cinematic swing of the head—his tongue in his cheek. Alexei is one of two guys in my ballet class at Ballet Austin. His dream is to join the company as a professional. You should see his turns, whew, he does three, no problem at all, no problem just whip-whip-whip head.

You know, when I rejoined the Ballet Austin Academy in January, he would sit in the corner of the studio with me during down time and talk about dancing in YAGP, leaning affectionately on the skateboard-of-the-day. Outside the AVST studio, he has this button on his phone you know, and he’ll play a “Fuck you” right into your ear when you’re not paying attention, and skip away in guppy-faced hysterics.

Alexei Bauereis. Funny I didn’t know his last name until now. smile4eileen Rip alexei. A close friend who died June 7th 30 minutes after being hit by a car. He was funny and loved to joke around. I will never forget you alexei and I will miss you dearly. 

Huh. The blue plastic rimming my iPhone 6 is almost, navy, it feels solid and packed smooth. I don’t remember that scratch on the top of the screen. It’s just deep enough to catch my fingernail when I slide it over. Safari. alexei hit by car. KXAN Teen hit, killed by car in northwest Austin identified AUSTIN (KXAN) — The 14-year-old teenager hit and killed by a vehicle in northwest Austin on Tuesday has been identified. Police say the driver of a Toyota 4 Runner was traveling eastbound on Spicewood Springs Road when it hit Alexei Bauereis in the eastbound lanes.

It’s time, this is yellow fever, the nurse shoulders into the room, hands full of papers and pokey things, she brandishes one ominous syringe. I wonder how you pronounce that. Bayrees, Boweris, Borees? A vein of hot, bulging pain above my elbow.

We slid into AVST against the flow of sweaty girls exiting. The studio is cavernous, resplendent with pale grey, its reflection beyond the front mirrors creating an aura of expanse. We slung our bags to the corners, where the last of Level 7/8 were packing their pointe shoes to leave. Alexei and I hoisted the last of the barres to the rightmost line of waist-high rails, where our classmates were already stretching. It was the white PVC-pipe lopsided one; I held it with my right hand, Alexei with his left, when we faced front. During class Ms. Hart would often aim indignant corrections in our direction—”Seriously? Is that foot pointed? Thank you!”—and I’d nearly have a heart attack. Alexei would grin, Alexei would straighten up and fix it, Ms. Hart would tower over Alexei, and I would be safe.



My friend from ballet

It is so sad.

But, like, I actually knew him. I mean, remember when 
Sarah Pool, the girl in my grade, she had a wakeboarding 
accident last summer and died? It was horrible, I felt 
terrible for her family, especially her twin, because what 
an awful thing for a teenager to die, what an awful thing
for your IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER to die all at once. But
I’d never met her, so I couldn’t feel this grief. Is this grief?
I literally saw Alexei last week. He was like, “See you next
year!” and tucked his skateboard under his arm and that
was it. Because we both moved up to Level 6, remember?
I was going to see him in September, dance with him for
whole nother year. And just like that, he’s gone, just like
that, forever. I think I’m just naive, you’re used to useless
deaths by now, aren’t you? They’re commonplace, just a
part of life. They happen all the time. Do they ever stop
hurting? Alexei is DEAD. If he’d taken two more steps
forward, if the driver left home twenty seconds later, dad.

I know.

I’m thinking that grief, like the awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon, is something each person must face for himself to know—its full throttle is beyond the power of words. Until you’ve been bloody and bowled over by its force, until it has sat heavy in the haunts of your chest and sucked you dry you can’t say you understand. I’m thinking there are levels, too. I can’t begin to understand what Alexei’s family and closest friends are feeling. Those who didn’t know him at all can’t understand what I’m feeling. I’m feeling dangerous. I’m feeling self-centered, guilty for every self-pitying thought wasted on my feelings.

But I can be selfish in this—I want. Alexei deserves as much notice as the victims in Orlando. I want elementary schoolchildren writing him letters saying they are so sorry. I want his face on placards, his name in international headlines. I want a speech from Obama. I want a Facebook profile picture filter and I want social media connecting supporters around the world, an international community praying for his family. I want Alexei remembered. I want him remembered for blasting “Fuck you” and for making his stupid YouTube videos, not for his beautiful soul and for caring for others and for always having a smile on his face—this plea for the sympathy of strangers. I want Alexei remembered for all the corners and intrigues of who he was, his name graven into textbooks and The Great Wall and the office desks of businessmen, and I want his name to represent to seven billion people exactly what it represented to him, no more, no less. The things I want are impossible and impractical, so there is nothing left to do, and maybe this is grief.

I happened upon the intersection of Spicewood Springs Road and Rustic Rock Drive entirely by accident. On the way from the barber to Asia Marketwe passed Canyon Vista Middle School. Erbao, isn’t this the place? my mom glanced at me in the rearview mirror. Yes. I had a moment to look hard at the scene. A bicycle, painted a milky white, leaned against the pole on the right of the traffic lights. Gathered around the pole on the left was a small assortment of fresh flower bouquets and myriad objects of remembrance. I rested my forehead on the sticky glass of the window and tried to breathe them in through my eyes.

Thirty minutes later, returning to pick up my newly-permed grandma, my mom stopped the car. Hurry, erbao, this is dangerous. I finished my last sentence, scribbled my name at the end of the cardstock, and stepped out into the earthy heat. I knelt next to the pole and bowed my head, searching for meaningful words to think out loud. Alexei, Alexei, it seemed too melodramatic. Finally I tucked the note under a tall brass trophy, sandwiching it into the earth just so that his name showed. I touched the wooden pole, then the asphalt next to my toes, and I climbed back into the car.

“Dear Alexei,

You deserved so much better than this.”


Isabella – 6/13/16


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