Eleven years ago this day.
A phone call, her mom’s voice as if from the bottom of a well.
Heather is lost.
An adventure, a trip of a lifetime. A raft on a river under South American sun. One big rapid.
She was lost.
Her beautiful, pointed-toe, turned-out-knees, strong-graceful-but-clumsy-all-the-way-to-her-fingertips, ballet-teacher, rock-climber body remained in the river.
And condors carried her spirit to heaven.
My best friend.
My cupcakes-on-my-birthday, drive-three-hours to see a Broadway musical, Blockbuster-on-Saturday-night, no-such-thing-as-too-much-glitter, someday-we’ll-backpack-Europe, hold-my-hand-in-the-dark-theatre-not-breathing-as-we-watch-Baryshnikov (BARYSHNIKOV!!!) -on-stage LIVE, chocolate-cake-at-midnight, flirting-with-the-waiter , who-needs-boys-we-have-each-other, best friend.
It cuts you in half, that kind of pain. Doubles you over and over and over. Makes you afraid to sleep because of the moment of remembering when you wake up.
The people who love you -and her- best gather round, help you remember who you are, love you back together again. They shine light into the darkness that seems bottomless, open up their darkness to include yours. You don’t know it yet, but your gratitude to them will remain knee-weakening forever.
(You know who you are. You saved me. There are no words but thank you.)
The sun comes up and the sun goes down and the pain gets smoother: from jagged stone to round pebble. But still: a rock.
You find the ways to see her in the world:
the face of a gerber daisy;
a Prince song on a country station;
a sparkly purple sweater, on sale just in time for a big date;
a Michael Jackson ride at a theme park;
You wave and smile at her, at these little winks that you know, you KNOW, come from her. You hear her voice in your head cheering you on through every move, every adventure, every change and decision. Sometimes, alone in your car, you talk to her. Because who else would be riding shotgun on all your solo roadtrips?
You start to laugh at the memories, instead of always crying.
Heather was afraid that drinking alone was a sign of alcoholism, so she used to call you if she was home alone with a glass of wine in the bathtub, leave long chatty messages on your answering machine between sips. Come on, that shit’s FUNNY.
After any breakup, she believed the best cure was to find a new boy to kiss. And she did. And you did. This, also: FUNNY.
You learn to look back at the path you have walked in the years since she was lost, and to see all the good things, people, places it has led you to.
And you love those people, those places, those things, those adventures.
But every day, every breath, every heartbeat, you wish she was still here.
My best friend.