A Letter to Aaliyah


Breanna Leverett, Staff Writer

Friday nights. I lived for them.

The delicious smells of hot dogs, nachos with hot melted cheese, candy-filled with tons of sugar, overly salted heated pretzels and hot cider has always comforted me. 

Those were the nights we lived for. Football nights were always the best, and our shows were even better. We had school spirit and passion. Well, some of us did. I can’t lie, I just loved getting out of my house, playing music all night and so did you.

“Bree are you ready? We are going to get first place. I just know it!”

“Yeah, I hope,” I replied.

In the back of my mind, I could care less. Heck, I didn’t even care about competitions when it came to music. As far as I was concerned, music was for everybody and everybody won if they loved it. The fact that we both believed that made us close. 

I remember freshman year, you were shy and passive. Ms. Fenscik, our music teacher, would always call you out for playing the loudest. Carefree, just like the music you lived for. Every note you played wasn’t perfect nor was it steady, but your heart was and it showed. The dedication, long nights and sweat were the proof. 

Sophomore year was quick, but we were family by then. Staying in the sun all day long until we played the perfect notes on the bells, vibraphone, and marimba. Countless times I remember you mumbling “I should’ve stayed with french horn.” Smiling and chuckling, you were always annoyed with our instructors, but your heart opened to the new experience of being in the percussion crew. 

Our winters were quick and our summers were long. There was never a day I didn’t find you without your favorite Arizona Iced Tea and Hershey bars. Sneaking out of practice to walk to CVS for your craving always cracked me up.

I remember that day.

It was raining a lot and I heard the sound of laughter and music. Having excitement I couldn’t wait to join. Palms sweating, running as fast as I could, I joined the rest of the crew. We circled each other in the parking lot, making music. We danced like our lives depended on it. We sang like it was the last time we ever were going to sing and we made music like the world was going to end.

Drenched from the rain, you finally made it back from the store. You did not question us, you didn’t laugh or mock us, but you joined us.

“We are crazy Bree,” Aaliyah stated. Shoes were thrown, instruments were played, and hearts were fixed at that moment.

“I know,” I replied.

“Heck yeah”.

We were free because the music lived inside of us. Nothing stopped us from being free in that moment. Not our parent’s separation that connected us in the first place, not the medical condition you hid from us, not the bullying you endured, not even our fears of leaving each other when we went off to college. None of that was important. We had everything we needed because of music and music had us.  

Our senior year went by slower than expected. This was our last year in the marching band together before we parted ways and went to college. Once again in the heat, we played our scales for hours. Our skills developed. We were more in tune with one another. Our drum instructors were never there, so we practiced on our own in the school parking lot where we danced in the rain the previous year.

I look across the street one day, my eyes landed on a young woman walking her dog. She seemed very attached, not letting the dog walk more than 10 inches away from her.

“Hey guys, look at that lady and her dog across the street,” I said. My friend’s focus shifted to the scene. Opening my mouth once again I stated, “I don’t know why people get so attached to dogs. I love them, but they have shorter lives than humans and they will eventually die. “

Everyone looked at me, but no one said a word except for Aaliyah.

“Well, I’m not a dog, but you could get attached to me and I could die so what’s your point?”

I had no words left to stir up or even say. How do you even reply to a statement like that?

On our graduation day, we couldn’t seem to keep still. The music moved us again. When it was time for us to walk, we both did a little dance to the music inside of our heads, making everyone around us laugh. We listened to the same stations, so we were connected and they knew it.

Making each moment count at our senior night was priceless. Dancing at 1 a.m., having rap battles, and playing laser team tag was everything. 

The feeling of sadness overwhelmed me because we would part ways and attend different schools. I never thought we would attend the same college, but half of our high school did anyways. “Hey, Bree, what clubs are you going to join?” 

You asked me that question about a thousand times since the first semester in September of 2015. 

Being reunited for music with someone I had a lot in common with sounded great. The nerves disappeared because of the endless support to pursue music and never let the passion fade. Those nerves disappeared until Dec 29, 2016. That semester, the music faded away slowly when I heard rumors about your death.

I remember receiving a text message from a close friend about you passing away. I automatically denied it, knowing that you were still here on earth, healthy and alive.

I quickly went to my brother and called him, since he is good friends with her brother.

I still have not heard any updates about your death and I was thankful.

I thanked God that it was true that he didn’t hear about this “hoax” of your supposed death. 

I thanked God at noon.

I thanked God when my brother said he didn’t hear anything about it around 2:00 pm.

I thanked God for the job interview I had that day, until I received a call confirming your death. 

For the longest time, I tried to understand your response about the dog and now I finally do. Life is short but precious. What makes us special is the time we have with each other. Cherish one another while we are here, not when we are gone. Although I know you are here in spirit, each time I listen to music, dance in the rain or even hear a french horn, I still thank God and think of you.