Eptesicus fuscus. Bats.

Blind as a bat. That's how I felt. I lived my life barely living, like there was something blocking my vision. I was oblivious to the world around me. I barely went out. And when I did, it was only because I absolutely had to. I rarely spoke to anybody, and I never had fun. I couldn't remember the last time I laughed out loud.

I never used to be like that. I was a cheerleader. My boyfriend was on the soccer team. I had friends, I went to parties.

That all changed the night you left me.

Luke was your name. You were perfect. You were on the soccer team. You were friends with Dave, a teammate, and you introduced us. You were thrilled when we got together. You were the captain of the team, and he was your best friend. You were my brother.

Everyone always told us how much we looked alike, and many mistook us for twins. We were only a year apart, and we were always together. When something good happened, you were the first person I told. When something bad happened, you always tried to get rid of whatever, or whoever, made it that way. I gave you dating advice, and picked out your clothes for your dates. We had each other's backs.

I said you left. What I meant was that you were killed. And it was my fault.

It was an ordinary Saturday. I was in my room, flipping channels with the TV muted, music playing through my speakers in place of sound. You came into my room. There was a party going on that night at one of the football players' houses.

"It'll be fun," you said.

You drove us in your car. I loved to party, and you were the designated driver. When we got there, we went our separate ways. I went straight to the booze table, and you went off to find some of your buddies. I should've stayed with you. Maybe I could've talked you out of leaving the party with them.

By the end of the night, everything was a blur. It was time to go home, but you were nowhere to be found. One of the guys on the team said you went out for a ride with some of your friends. I called your cell. There was no answer. I tried again. Nothing. Forty minutes had gone by. I was starting to get worried, and I just wanted to get home.Maybe I'll walk,I thought. The night air was brisk, and numbed my nose. I started walking in the direction of our house. I approached an intersection. There was police tape. The sound of the siren, and the lights flashing against my face filled all my senses. My stomach dropped to my knees. I knew. I just knew something was wrong. I approached the police tape.

"You're going to have to get going," an officer said. "This 'aint no show."

I turned to leave, but that's when I saw it. A black car. Your car. My heartbeat sped up, and my stomach dropped even lower.

"Wait, sir," I said, my voice quivering. "Could you tell me the license plate number of that car?"

He told me. A little piece of me died that night, along with you.

Your funeral was just as bad. Mom and Dad could barely hold themselves together. I had to be strong. For them, and for you. But man, was it hard. When I got home that night, I let everything out. I couldn't keep it in any longer and I cried for hours.

I was mad at first. How couldyou? How could you leave me? How could you take Mom and Dad's oldest and best child away from them? The anger quickly wore off, and then I felt guilty. Like maybe I could have stopped you from going out with your friends? Maybe I would've gone with you and it would've been me, instead?

Two weeks after your funeral, I finally went back to school. But what was the point? I had given up. I didn't want to learn. I didn't care about anything. There was a soccer game. They were going to retire your jersey number and do a tribute to you during halftime. They wanted me, as a cheerleader and your sister, to make a speech. I told them to fuck off. I didn't even go to the game. I quit cheerleading, too. I didn't feel very cheery after you left.

The principal requested I see a school counselor. I didn't want to. But Mom and Dad made me. The counselor suggested I start a journal. So I did. I filled it with my feelings. With memories of you. I filled tons of journals. Then, after my sessions with the counselor were finally over, I burned those journals.

Writing those memories down helped to block them out. It was as if they flowed from my brain, through the pen, and onto the page, trapped in ink forever, erased from my mind completely. As much as I hate to say it, I wanted to forget you. It just hurt too much to remember. Everything reminded me of you. I wanted to live with my eyes closed. Blind. Just like those bats.

It was a brisk day. The cold wind numbed my nose. It was exactly like that night. The night I last saw you alive.

As I stepped into the tattoo shop a bell rang above my head. The purple-haired receptionist looked up from her work and smiled at me. It's been years since I last saw you. And I think my life is starting to feel almost normal for once. I still blame myself sometimes, though.

"Welcome to Planet Ink," she said. "What can I do you for?"

I don't know what made me think of doing this, but I felt that since I'd missed that tribute the school did for you all those years ago, it was time I did my own personal tribute to you.

"Bats," I told her. I thought I owed them something. Because I knew how they felt. And because they reminded me of the whole ordeal I went through after you left.

I sat with my knees to my chest as the tattoo artist prepared me, placing the stencil on the tops of my feet.

It wasn't until she turned on the tattoo machine and started working that I realized how stupid I had been being. The pain of being tattooed, in a twisted kind of way, felt good. It was the first time I had felt that way since before the accident.

I then did what I thought I would never do again. I laughed. Out loud. And I knew. I knew that it wasn't my fault.