The week before Hazel Lancaster died, she gave me a book.
"It's called An Imperial Affliction," she told me on Monday, and I couldn't get over how weak she sounded. "You should have your mom read it to you or something. It's fabulous."
I tried to laugh for her benefit. "Before I even let my mom touch this, let me make sure of one thing—"
"No, Isaac," Hazel interrupted, "it does not contain German porn."
"Good." I grabbed her hand briefly, if only to let her know I was there for her. "Well, I guess I've got to take off and read this fabulous book."
She laughed. "See you, Isaac."
I didn't know it then, but it would be the last conversation I ever had with her.
"'My mother's glass eye turned inwards'," my mom began. I heard the sound of her laying the book on her lap. "That's got to be the strangest opening to a book I've ever read."
I just smirked and shook my head. "Keep going, Mom."
"Isaac!" my dad shouted on Friday night. "Phone for you!"
"What time is it?" I mumbled, even though I was really wide awake. Oh, my God, it might be The Call.
SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT.
The voice on the other end was almost drowned out by the crying—ugly, ugly sobbing, something I never wanted to hear again.
"Isaac, it's Hazel's mom. I just wanted to-to tell you—"
"I know, Mrs. Lancaster. Believe me, I know."
"She-she wanted you to write something to say at her funeral. That was the only thing…" She broke down again, and I quietly hung up, not wanting to intrude any longer on their family's crushing, drowning sadness.
Afterward, I went to my room—realizing the injustice of the fact that I wasn't allowed to cry over my best friend if I didn't have eyes. Augustus would have called it metaphorical resonance.
I called it (and the fact that Hazel was dead) bullshit.
I finished the book the morning of her funeral.
My tie wasn't straight (since I had insisted on doing it myself), my suit probably had wrinkles, and I still hadn't written anything down.
But the ending of the book—albeit being abrupt—had given me an idea.
"I feel like this shouldn't be happening to me. Just a month ago, I stood in this exact same spot and delivered a speech on another of my friends—a boy some of you may know as Augustus Waters. Now I've lost Hazel, too. It doesn't feel fair.
"So my late friend Augustus had a thing for metaphorically resonant things, and my late friend Hazel had a thing for books. Hazel gave me a book on Monday, entitled An Imperial Affliction—a book about cancer that is actually not a cancer book—and told me I needed to read it. I did as she asked, and had my mom read it to me, owing to the fact that it is very hard to read if you don't actually have eyes.
"This book ends right in the middle of a sentence, which ties into Augustus's part of this story by being a metaphor for both his life and Hazel's—but hers especially. It ended too soon, and it left you wishing that there was a sequel, that there was more. But I know that both of them are getting their happy ending in heaven right now, and I guess that's all I can really ask for."