Friday, October 16, 2015

Five years today...and this is what I meant in the previous entry about things getting dark.

I didn’t mention it before but she’d been dating a guy I didn’t approve of when she died. And by “didn’t approve of,” I mean that I thought it very inconsiderate of him to replace me as the most important friend in her life, especially while I was going through "a rough patch" and needed her to spend all of her time with me on the phone, listening to me whine.

It all moved so quickly, this boy and her, and me being left behind, so we fought about that, and about all sorts of other things that had nothing to do with anything except the two of us being locked in an unwinnable competition to prove who was more stubborn. It was the type of fighting that leads to silence; the summer before she died, we barely spoke.

What I remember most about those last few months is how angry I was. I was angry that she’d had my book for fifteen months and never given me her edits, so I’d had to finish it without her insight. I was angry that I spent a whole day poring over a complaint she’d written against a faculty member only to have her scrap it once I sent her my feedback. I was angry that she only seemed to call to talk about boys when I was lying awake at night worrying that Congress wasn't going to pass an extension on my unemployment benefits. I was angry that she was still in school, still blissful in the mentality of a student, unable to relate to my growing contempt for academia and its snotty immunity to rest of the world, which was falling apart outside its bubble.

I was angry because I had to hear from Alex that things were going so well that she’d gone on vacation with his family. (Alex!) I was angry because I missed her. I was angry because she was still the same Kara she’d always been, and I was losing Becky to a world of lost dreams and false starts. I was angry that I felt old, and that as I aged, she seemed suspended in a joyous youthfulness that I vaguely remembered but could no longer touch.

And I was especially angry about the card she sent. Kara was always sending cards…St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Just Happened to be at Hallmark That Day… This one said she missed me, and (like I do) I hit my limit and snapped. It was the harshest e-mail I ever sent her - she missed me? I wasn’t the one who went away. I wasn’t the one who had forgotten her in her time of misery because something a lot more fun had come alone.

I was the one who never asked for help who had asked for hers and not gotten it. I remember that I ended the e-mail saying she’d always been competitive and: “Congratulations; you won.” You won because you have a life and I’m a shell of my former self, stuck writing about some fucking movie star that I can’t stand the sight of for the sake of selling a book I can’t fucking get published. I looked like shit and I felt like shit and I was so angry at myself because I’d never gotten so down that I couldn’t pull myself together. But that’s where I was… I think that was September.

When I went to see her in Nashville, two days after my first track workout, we hadn’t talked in ages. We didn’t even say much to arrange the meet-up because we were still mad at each other, but being mad at each other didn’t seem an acceptable reason to either of us for me not to drive over to see her for the day when she was so close. So I did. She was visibly ill when I got there, the blood clots that would kill her already in both lungs, though neither of us knew that. We knew only that she didn’t feel well, and no, she didn’t want to go to the hospital, she said, before I had the chance to ask.

When I was younger, I had problems with hypoglycemia, and my remedy even now when anything is physically wrong, with me or anyone else, is to find food. We walked a block away from her hotel to a restaurant for lunch, the first one we came across because she was having difficulty breathing. I didn’t know what to do, so after we ordered, I dug a granola bar out of my purse and gave it to her. She ate it, and her lunch too, but none of it made her feel better.

She told me a little about what she’d been up to (the trip with his family, thinking about moving in with him, working on her dual PhDs), and congratulated me on being published (six weeks earlier), and then we went back to her hotel room so she could lie down. While lying there, she told me she’d had a really bad feeling about coming on that trip. That she’d gone to her boyfriend’s house before she left and cried, telling him she didn’t want to go.

And as I stood there, listening to her, I knew. I knew. And she knew, too.

But I still didn’t know what to do, so I left her to sleep the afternoon away and I drove back home, telling her as I left that I’d call in a few days and we’d get caught up when she felt better. We both knew it was a lie.

Three days later, I woke up with the phrase “my best friend died that summer” going through my head, which I initially thought was the prompt for a new story (I was prone to dreaming up all sorts of narrative threads in those days). But mid-morning I got the call. The only thing more horrifying than hearing she was gone was the internal recognition that I was in no way surprised that she was gone.

I met her boyfriend at the funeral. He wrote me a week later to apologize for coming between us and to thank me for being such a good friend to her, even though it wasn’t him that came between us, it was our egos, and having said that, my aptitude at friendship maybe wasn’t the best. I always say she was my best friend because she was - she was the best friend I’ve ever had. But it wasn't the same as it once was. And it was never going to be the same again.

And that’s the story about when Kara died.

- from the Breakaway book


  1. Replies
    1. Thus is the conundrum of the Breakaway book. All blunt reality, no self-effacing celebrity jokes to offset it. :-/

  2. I am glad you went to the place you didn't want to go. Because I think it's important. Grief is the horrendous thing, and it's never really quite over. Be kind to yourself this week.