The first time we ever met – face to face – we talked for two hours. Or, more accurately, she talked. I listened, rapt with attention. Torn between wonder and worry, as she spoke of all that she’d been going through over the past year and change. Wonder, at her ability to tell a story with so much detail, and such deep feeling, and struck through with an astonishingly dark and agile sense of humor that would come bursting out at the most unexpected moments in the most wonderfully horrible ways.
And worry. At the challenges and difficulties she had faced, and was still facing. At the pain that seemed such a constant in her life — always there, quietly, even in the most joyful moments. At the fear that despite the staggering worlds of talent and energy and beauty and potential within her – promise on a scale rarely seen in this world – that one day, one of these countless small and great fractures would grow, and spread, and reach too deeply, and all at once: She would shatter.
I had worried for her, before. And I worried for her again, in the years that followed. When she’d vanish from the online world – deleting her profiles, her often breathtaking writing, her always stunning photography, her identity, as she’d crafted and sculpted and flensed it over the slow course of months or years – and leave us wondering: Were we meant to notice? Was this a strategic withdrawal? Or was it something more?
Or when her beloved dog passed away. Jurgen. I think I may be missing some umlauts there, but Jurgen… her muse, her child, her beloved life partner. She called me, not long after that happened, completely out of the blue and profoundly heartbroken and in near-hysterical tears and sad, so very hurt and sad and lost at a world without her pup, and we talked for a good long while, her telling stories and remembering the good times and trying to navigate the loss while I listened, and prompted, and offered what little I could: Support and empathy, and the occasional off-color joke. I hope was I able to help. I’d expect that her call to me was just one of many she made that day, or that week — reaching out for help.
We talked again, a month or two later. I called her that time. Checking in. Following up. Wanted to let her know I was still thinking about her, still worrying. Still hoping she’d find her way through. And I was relieved to discover that she was… still sad, still nursing that mighty, broken heart, but not lost. She was fighting her way forward. And she was funny, and ferocious and fragile and fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting
all those years of fighting
I think we spoke once more, after that. I remember being thrilled by what I heard. Things were good for her. Changes were being made, for the better. There was the promise of days, more days, ever and always brighter days ahead. And then, as these things happen, we didn’t find time or reason to talk again. Just a function of circumstance and distraction and the thousand, the ten thousand, small things that captured our focus and filled our days. But we stayed in touch online, as one does, to quietly diminishing degrees. Drifting as the current took us, in different directions. But I always thought of her as my friend.
There were others who knew her. Far, far better than I. Others, suddenly confronted with an infinite, aching hollow in their lives where just… a day? How is that possible? A day ago. It’s nothing. It’s everything.
There’s no way to make this right. No way to fill this empty place in the world, despite the outpouring of so much grief and love. Wave upon wave, deluge upon flood. It will never be enough, although you hope – you have to hope, you always have to hope, or find a reason to hope – that others walking the edge will feel this grief, and find it within themselves to recognize and reach out. For love. For support and empathy. For the occasional off-color joke.
Outside this window, there is still a blue sky. The leaves are still rich and green, saturated with the light of a long summer. There are sparrows, weightless and free, riding the warm September air across the canopy of maple and oak. In time, the air will cool, and calm, and the sparrows will return to their nests. And a waxing crescent moon will rise, slowly, above the trees, tracing a slow arc as the hours pass and the night deepens, as a flickering, brilliant light fades, and fades, and fades and forever fades.