Its still strange to me how it hits me out of nowhere, randomly, occasionally and it still hurts. Its been thirty years now and even though I don’t think of her everyday anymore, I doubt I go more than two weeks. I still have mementos… but they are empty to me…
Someone close to me once asked me to tell a story about Jill and for the life of me, I couldn’t really think of anything in particular. I spent the rest of the day feeling horrible. My grief was wrapped in guilt and shame. It was a hard day to get through, but I did. I finally told my friend that I couldn’t really tell a story because my life with Jill was so bonded, so intertwined that there weren’t isolated moments for me remember. You had to know her to understand why things that happened to us were as wonderful or hilarious as they were. We had jokes we’d been running for years, references that no one could trace, “bits” that only we could pull off. We could go on for hours together… our friends (mostly men) would just sit and watch in fascination. No one could add to what we built – we’d been friends since kindergarten. No one could approach our syncronicity. We both had other friends and a couple of times she and I fell out of touch but it never lasted more than a week or two. We both knew once she graduated, we’d be roommates, probably forever.
You want to know what I remember most about our last year together? I remember her borrowing my black trenchcoat, smoking black russians and side-eyeing everyone while quiet witticisms dropped from her mouth. I remember her calling me and telling me that she found all the letters her father had been sending since her parents had broken up. I remember her crying on the phone because she’d finally realized he truly loved her. I remember helping her contact him, helping her find out where he lived and worked and mailing the letter for her (in case it got sent back and her mother found out)
I remember how joyful she was when he wrote back.
Then they started calling each other. She changed then, in a good way. She became more joyful and confident than I’d ever known her to be. She stopped caring what her mother thought of her and started doing more of what SHE wanted. She was looking forward to her 18th birthday so much. I was sure she’d move into the house I lived in. SHe wavered, but I knew she’d do it. SHe was going to go to art school. Her father was going to buy her a car. I gave her a black trenchcoat of her own (fabulous thrift store skills) for christmas then went ahead and gave her her birthday present early because I wanted to see her joyful all over again.
That last year of her life was watching her blossom and bloom. I was so proud of her – writing to her father took a lot of courage. I was so happy for her – things were going the way she wanted them to for once in her life.
And she didn’t make it to her 18th birthday after all.
I remember running down the hall of the restaurant screaming and screaming, slamming in to the front door and falling to the floor trying to find a way out. Trying to scream those words out of my head. When people ask me about her, that’s the first thing I thnk of, all that screaming and crawling on the floor. The waitress I had a crush on, picking me up and rocking me. That’s what I think of. I wish I could think of the good things about her FIRST, but I never do. I remember all that crushing pain… I remember the grief that hurt so bad I thought I was going to die too… but i knew I wouldn’t. I remember my dad driving me to my boyfriends apartment. I remember sitting in the van and staring at the metal walls and I heard whispering “no, no, no, no” because I couldn’t stop saying it. I remember going “home” and my boyfriend holding me. Then us frantically having sex, as if fucking would somehow replace her in this world. As if having an orgasm would somehow take that soul-crushing grief away from me.
But the years have gone by… thirty years in fact, and over time I’ve come to remember more of her… more of us. But that grief, though it won’t kill me and I don’t want it to, that grief never did leave.