Oh, my friends.
Have you ever known somebody who died well before her time?
It’s a most unfortunate experience.
I can say that because, as of last weekend, I know how it feels.
She had an infectious laugh.
I was eight when I met her after moving across the street from her family. We played together all the time. She had a pool, which made her house the favourite for our childhood escapades. We would pick up big rocks from the side of the house and hold them in our laps, letting them sink us to the bottom of the deep end for as long as we could last—we liked how it helped us stay down there longer than we ever could on our own. Her dad hated it, told us to stop, so we did. Her older brothers were scary, (maybe just intimidating), so we stayed away from them.
Together, we buried a time capsule two inches beneath the earth in the dry empty lot at the end of our cul-de-sac, and dug it up the next day because we couldn’t stand the suspense.
We were disappointed that nothing had changed, that time was moving so slowly, things were taking so long to happen. Silly.
One time after Achievement Day (it’s like Girl Scouts for Mormons), while she was still inside, I played a silly trick on her, moving her bike from the Achievement Day leader’s house to the driveway of her parents’ house down the street, making her think it got stolen. Then we were all going to have a good laugh together when I told her where it was. Only it really did get stolen during the ten minutes it took me to reveal the prank. I never had cruel intentions, but I was stupid. I don’t remember if I had to pay for it or not.
We were ten or eleven. I always felt bad about it.
Later, when I went to Junior High, “playing” stopped being the thing to do. We went to different schools…were in different grades. Without playing, the common bond was broken.
Our time capsule anxiety had paid off; things were happening so quickly nobody could keep up.
I always liked her, though. I suppose she always liked me back. We weren’t close, but we were still friends.
One night when I was in eighth grade, we were awoken by a pounding on our front door—there she was, sobbing in an oversized t-shirt: their house was on fire, could we help? We couldn’t, not really, but we tried desperately. Someone scrounged up blankets. The whole neighborhood watched it burn, burn, burn. She was in tears, I gave her a hug. A pitiful offering.
High school, college, Canada, Belgium. Canada again, this time for good. I moved away, came back, and she was always there with a welcome home and a grin.
Of course she was always there—all the people we’ve always known are always supposed to be there. Always.
Until, one day, they’re not anymore.
And when that happens, it’s unsettling because their Facebook accounts are still active; in the days since her death, I have continued to get daily automated updates about how she discovered so-and-so as her friend of the day, and my first reaction is always, “Oh, good, a new friend,” but that only lasts for the split second before something—what is it?—triggers, reminding me that it’s not real, she’s not alive anymore, and those friends of the day are missing out on knowing a sweet person.
On the one hand I don’t even feel worthy to write this memory: it feels disrespectful to her family, to those who remained better friends with her throughout her life. Because really, we haven’t been close for years. I wasn’t the best friend I could have been. I’m antisocial on a good day, and that kind of personality does not lend itself to a great number of long-lasting friendships.
But on the other hand, if there were any way of letting her know how I feel about it all, I figure I ought to try. I don’t know…maybe they have blogs in heaven. If so, I hope they get to read them on Macs.
So now, I join the ranks of all the people who have written messages to her on her Facebook wall—well, not her wall, but this blog; either way, it’s a message she’ll never see, never read. That first day, I was so annoyed with those notes on her wall: “Really?” I asked. “As if she is going to log in to Facebook in heaven? You should’ve said all that stuff while she was still here to read it.”
YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID ALL THAT STUFF WHILE SHE WAS STILL HERE TO READ IT.
I should have.
Defense mechanisms, self-loathing, call it what you will.
In subsequent years, I would regret my decision to quit playing.