I got word that an old friend of mine died over the weekend.
She was killed by a drunk driver in a head-on collision. So simple.
I didn’t know Kjersten anymore. It had been more than a decade since we were in touch. We were friends for a few years, back when I lived in Seattle. We were a couple for — six months? A year maybe? Obviously we broke up at some point, but I’ve no memory of it: whether we fought or drifted or moved away… Most of my ex-girlfriends, what lingers in memory is the end, the part where things started going badly, but honestly I don’t have a single unhappy memory of Kjersten: I can’t remember ever seeing her angry or sad or annoyed, or ever being any of those with her. It’s all long drives and late breakfasts in sunny weather.
Funny how memory works.
Time and distance soften the news. Leaves me not sure how to react; not sure how I am reacting. Not grief. Not even sadness, not really. The person in my memory isn’t a real person; it’s an edited, probably idealized story I’ve been telling myself. The real mourning belongs to those who still knew the real, actual her; it’d be presumptuous of me to claim part of that.
That whole paragraph is a self-serving lie. My real reaction is mostly selfish, wholly unoriginal thoughts about the fragility of bodies. How unbearably stupid it is that we only get one each. How appalling that we’re trapped in these piles of meat and haven’t figured out how to escape them unharmed. My real reaction is self-pity and fear. I’m going to die too. Probably for reasons just as random and pointless as her death. And the world will move on.
That’s a lie too. Both of those are lies. Neither of them is. One of them is secret. Don’t tell anyone.
This part’s true: she deserved more. We all do, but that doesn’t diminish her part. If there’s anything after this, I hope it treats her well. If there isn’t, I hope it ended quickly.
That’s not much to offer. I’m not sure it counts for anything. It probably doesn’t.