Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone

I'm lying in bed this morning and the weight of what day it is comes rushing over me in full force. It had crossed my mind earlier this week, when I'd realized we'd entered into May, but I'd held it in, just below the level of cognizant awareness. It's not that I wanted to forget, or even that I'm trying to forget, but on some level, I wanted to give the day back to my friend Maria, whose birthday has had a cloud over it for so many years.

We were reminiscing about Maria's 21st birthday last night (as one does, when it's one of the best stories you share involving alcohol and shoes), and my brain tried to start doing the math. I wouldn't let it, but it finally won this morning, effectively tarnishing that cheerful memory. We went out for Maria's birthday at midnight as May 4 turned into May 5 and 20 turned into 21. Several hours later, the unthinkable happened, as we were all disbanding for the summer, as Maria and her epic hangover rode home with her mother, as I packed up the last bit of my dorm room for the year. The next morning, I got the worst of all phone calls while sitting in the parking lot of a property management office, waiting for them to open so I could pick up my keys for the apartment that I was co-subleasing for the summer. I can't remember what was said, I was dazed, staring out my windshield, not comprehending what I was hearing.

Michelle... car accident... she's gone.

It hurts as much today as it did seven years ago. For some reason my brain decided to wonder if the article about her car accident was still up online, but my stomach tightened and I realized there was no way I could bring myself to read it again.

She would have turned thirty this upcoming November, the first one in our tight-knit circle to do so. She would probably be married, with a baby, maybe two. She would have gotten a fantastic job as a graphic designer or illustrator (she was amazing at both), using her talents to brighten the world. Her positivity was infectious, and I miss that the most. She always had the words to get you through your darkest patches, and always knew what to say to make you feel like a million bucks. I miss having her to turn to. I miss the reassurance of her hugs. They were the best hugs, made extra soft by the gray hoodie she always wore when she was relaxing.

Maybe it's selfish, how much I miss her, how much I know my life would be better if she were still here. I miss her sunshine. But if I start to think about the injustice of it all, about how her future was ripped away from her, far too soon, far too abruptly - I can't handle that. I know life isn't fair - you hear that from the time you are old enough to understand words (even if you're not old enough to understand what "fair" actually means, as opposed to what you think it means), but it's truly not. My biggest ache was always the why - why her? Why then? I would have gladly traded places with her. At that time, my outlook was so bleak and I had often wished for an out - while she was the opposite, so full of life and light. It was all backwards and never made sense to me. Maybe, on some level, her death saved my life; I vowed to carry on because she wouldn't. Living my life was a tribute to hers, in a way. A sloppy, messy, but well-intentioned tribute, I suppose, but I'm still going.

I hate it. I miss my friend. It's been seven years and the hole is still there, and I can't think about it too much or it paralyzes me. It hurts less than it did; time has a merciful way of turning raw wounds into scars, but the mark will always be there. I miss her, I miss her bubbly personality, her advice, her outlook on life. I miss living across the hall from her, I miss sharing the ups and downs of our lives. I never felt like I was worthy of being her friend. She was the rarest of people, the kind that proved there was good in the world. No matter how much time passes, my  memory of first meeting her - a welcoming, reassuring sophomore who plunked herself in the middle of all us nervous freshmen on move-in day - remains as vivid as if it just happened. Her memory is one of the strongest that I carry; I know I can trust that, if I can trust nothing else. Anyone who knew her can tell you  that I'm not exaggerating when I talk about how wonderful she was - they'd probably tell you that I'm not doing her enough justice.

It's a hard day today, like it always is. I don't think she'd approve of me lying around in my pajamas, being mopey and sad. She'd give me a hug and let me feel my feelings, but then she'd launch into a campaign to cheer me up. I'd probably stubbornly continue to wallow, but it wouldn't last long. It couldn't. She was like a magnet that demanded you to smile.

I think I might go for a run today. She was a runner, the first "real" runner I'd really been friends with. (The first of many, I might add). The snow is gone today, and it looks like the sun is trying to peek through. I kind of like to think that's her doing, her way of letting us know that wherever she is, she's all right, and she's keeping an eye on us.


Kelly L said...

I am so sorry, Kelly. I don't even know what to say, but 'yes, life isn't fair'... I've seen it too many times to count and makes me incredibly sad and angry sometimes.
Your friend sounds like an incredible person and nobody can take what you had away from you. Hugs to you today!

Kelly L said...

I always hate reading this every year, but I think this one is my favorite one that you've written. She was seriously a great person and I wish I'd known her better. You're right — her positivity was infectious, and that's what I remember the most.