“It’s alright, son. It’s alright. Just breathe into this.”
So many hands. So many shadows. So many people looming over me. Someone places a tube over my mouth and nose. I think it’s supposed to help me breathe. It doesn’t.
“He’s not responding. Beginning CPR.”
A mouth placed over mine. Air rushing into me. Hands thumping my chest. For a few seconds I think... I might actually survive this.
And then I see him. And I know it’s over.
My name was Mustafa Khan. Born June 18th 1994, I was barely 5 years old when my father died of a heart problem. My mother did her best to raise us. Being a single mother with three boys, the oldest of whom was only 12 at the time? Not an easy job. But somehow, with the help of my uncle, she did it.
When I first met Matt, my eldest brother, Sohail was, at age 24, about to graduate from law school, my other brother, Abdullah, at age 22, was in medical school…and then there was me. 17 years old. In the middle of my senior year in high school. The disappointment of the family. Maybe that’s a little too harsh. See, I wasn’t dumb, not even close, but I had nothing on my brothers. Sohail and Abdullah had both graduated at the top of their classes. Me? I had good grades and all but I was nowhere near as amazing as the two of them. My academic life would never match theirs. The teachers would see my light-brown untamable hair, hazel eyes, slightly crooked nose and think, there’s another one of those Khans. They would wait expectantly for my perfect test scores and stunning essays. Those grades didn’t come. And they would give me that disappointed look that said, “Seriously? A 92? Your brothers got nothing less than 98s.” And as I said earlier, my mom tried her best, she really did. But with two brothers like mine, I got shunned to the side a lot. And so I made some mistakes, got some wrong buddies and effectively managed to screw up my life.
Now Matt. He was a good guy. As I tell you more about him, you probably won’t agree with me. But he really was a good guy. He just had some…issues. For one, he was an 18-year-old weed addict who occasionally drank. I can already see you going, "Why the heck were you friends with him?". It only gets worse. For another, he was a bully. There’s no other word for it. He made fun of little kids, reduced girls to tears and beat guys up. But senior year, he got better. Something in him changed. He was more focused on his education. The AP Bio teacher asked me to tutor him and we slowly grew from hating each other to, at the very least, becoming mutual acquaintances. Within a year, he was practically my best friend. Yeah, he was a jerk at first. But my mom had always taught me to give people a second chance. And so I did. The only problem was his smoking. The drinking wasn’t that big of a deal because he only did it a couple of times. But the weed. He was completely hooked. Sure. He was a legal adult, but as his friend, shouldn’t I have tried to help him? The only problem was…I didn’t. I let it go, thinking, you know, he’ll get over it. He didn’t. My family warned me about him. I just laughed. I still remember the conversation we had, word-to-word.