I am not her husband and I am not her five year old son and I am not her mother and stepfather who now have to process losing a child to suicide for the second time. And there's a lot of reason not to feel sorry for them, and there are a lot of m.'s friends who might cringe that I include them in this list. And maybe even, watching over, m. herself is cringing. Somehow, I have to include them in the list of grieving people. Even with tremendous, repeated and stunning error, her mom is her mom who never had an instruction manual.
I am, like a lot of people who are crying over her, m.’s friend. And for m. we friends of hers were very much a family. Disjointed and grown apart as many of us are.
In adulthood, m. and I talked infrequently, maybe every six months. We saw each other at least once a year. When my mom died August before last, she sent me a sympathy card. Those sympathy cards coming in the mail, strangely, had seriously comforted me. Maybe in January or February, I called her. It was when I was first able to reach back out to all those friends who had reached out to me.
I had seen her before that in December. My husband and I had a get together at our house, but that Christmas is a haze. Like m.’s, my friendships have been long, and they mean a lot to me. But I had been petrified to see any of my friends that December. I didn’t know if I could talk to them or if I would want to. It turns out, one of my very favorite memories of m. is from that gathering. Someone else had to remind me of it. She declared with no modesty and with great pleasure that she was “the Kevin Bacon of Baton Rouge,” referring to the drinking game that everyone in Hollywood knows Kevin Bacon by 6 degrees of separation.
That January or February when we spoke, it was a two-hour conversation. The only kind you could ever have with m. And most recently, this past August, just before her birthday, my husband and I had been in NY visiting our friend e. (e. and m. grew up together, and for all practical purposes, they were sisters.)
We were at e.’s sister’s house in brooklyn. m. called e. and the phone got passed around. e. talked to m. e.’s sister talked to m. My husband c. talked to m. And I pronounced with great offense, in a very m.-like way (we could be a lot alike at times), “I didn’t get to talk to m!” (m. would have been so utterly thrilled to know my offense, to know I cared that much.) And e. said calmly, “Call her back.” So I did. And then I separated myself from everyone, and I got in a good conversation with her.
We had commented, before e. first answered the phone, m. is going to be so jealous that we’re all here together. m. longed for her friends, constantly. She longed to be around them and for all of them to be around each other as often and more often than possible.
You don’t realize that a person holds a place and presence in your everyday life until you hear they have died, in this case, committed suicide. When I heard it, even though the m. lived a thousand miles away, and even though we spoke and saw one another infrequently, suddenly I sharply felt the void in the place that presence had held itself.
I want to spew a list of memories, of funny things, of reasons she has mattered in my life, ways she impacted me, but it’s not what I can write about in this moment. I’ll get there. She’d be insulted if I didn’t. I can hear her bossing, “You better.”
All I can muster right now is that everytime I see a Frida Kahlo painting, I'll be reminded of m. I had never even realized before that they were connected in my mind.