Today I got a Facebook notification of a birthday. It really sucked.
Several years ago, I lost a friend for the second time. This is mostly about me, because she’s not here, and it hurts every year. I had lost touch with her, again, as you do with people who are consumed with beasts and needles, when you have your own things to fight. When we were kids, and I thought I had lost her the first time, I remember feeling so strongly that there was something I should have done, some place I should have stepped in, some thing, any thing that would have come between her and the beast, but I was 17, and beasts don’t work that way.
She was gifted. Which is a corny way to say she could write. She never wanted to publish, because she didn’t want anyone to actually read her stuff. She just wrote to get the hell out of her head, and sometimes it worked, and always it was brilliant.
She lived through more crap than I can really wrap my head around. She came to school one day with a tooth knocked out. The school called Children’s Aid, and they went to interview him, but he told them everything was fine, so they went away. She got a little more scarred every weekend.
I finished school, and she didn’t. She took the money he gave her and paid for a little one-room apartment downtown, where she would gather up little girls from the street, to keep them warm and safer, because they trusted her. The money ran out, because it does when you spend so much a day to cope, and things deteriorated fast. She called me at university, completely out of it – please, just lend me a little. I still love you.
The last time I saw her, was in a dive bar, just south of the university. She knew I would be there. She could barely stand up, with her missing tooth, and the bruises and messed up eyes. I didn’t know what to do. I gave her money, and then regretted it, and then wished I had taken her home with me. 17 year olds are very rarely equipped to deal with shit like this, or at least I wasn’t.
Then she was gone. The phone was gone. The apartment was gone. She was nowhere. I didn’t think there was any way she could have made it, she was so sick, so I grieved. She was gone from me, at the very least.
When she came back, after I had mourned her the first time, she had moved away, found a life, and some purpose. When she found me, I was so happy, in a simple, naive way. She had found life, and joy, and was away from the things that made her life so shit in Canada. Everything was cool. FB was my friend that time.
When I found out she was gone the second time, I knew that the beast had followed her, and was just waiting for her to trip, but none of that changed what I knew about her. There was a news report, from a hotel in a far away place. The name was right, and her cousin verified it. I’m not sure which time I was more crushed, but I felt it again today when I saw the notification. She’s gone. She’s dead. She will never call me again. She will never write another word. I still love her.
She was, and always will be, the only person who came to my 14th birthday party. She was the one who faked an asthma attack to sit with me in the dark while the rest of the class ran laps in gym class. She was the one who told me, there is something wrong with you, but it doesn’t make me love you any less. She was the one who wore her mother’s pink cotton prom dress, that she had to keep hitching up over her non-existent boobs, and danced with me, when some guy named David told me I was ugly and stupid, and I believed him. She was the one who made me feel like sticking around. She was the only one my mother would let smoke on the back porch in high school, because we were afraid she would leave, and we never knew if she would make it back this time.
She would have been 42 today. If you need help, please ask, please tell someone. There are ways to feel ok again, and ways to fight beasts, and you don’t have to be alone. There are people who you have made better, and people who will miss you for the rest of their lives, because you are awesome.