February 20th

You always have more than one best friend. Admit it. One is the person who knows what fires your soul, one (if you are lucky) is the person who will always be in your corner, one is the person you played with in the dirt. Something like that.

I had three, when I was a half-riveted Sled with no lacquer or motto painted on my slats. One got all fascinated with the Struggle of poor people thousands of miles from her and decided that nothing else deserved her time and attention. One kept marrying people till I decided there was no point trying to compete.

One locked herself in a garage, on the twentieth night of February forty-one years ago, and left the car engine running.

No one told me for a month or so, in those days before Twitter and e-mail and what ever all, when the telephones in college dormitories were catch-as-catch-can anyway, but mostly because the majority of the human race is fairly gutless. I never fully grasped the topography of her despair, though the inklings I have would not flatter any of her survivors. I have never visited her gravesite, nearby as it is; when no one is brave enough to tell you that your childhood friend has died in time for you to attend her funeral, subsequent observances seem pointless.

If the dead can know anything, they know everything, so it is all right, I imagine. Still: Linda Jean, I remember. Every year.


5 thoughts on “February 20th

    • Thank you. After a night’s sleep I was a little sorry myself that I posted an old, bitter memory that no one can do anything to help… but it does help after all to know that someone read it and returned a kind word.

      At the time, people seemed to want to do everything but behave as if a bright, sensitive young woman had been lost and grief was the natural response. Apparently it was more important to pronounce opinions about suicide, try to pretend it hadn’t happened, or preach about how loss is a part of life.

      Which it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s trivial.

      Remembering makes me more patient with teenagers who are full of drama about things that seem a little absurd to me at the time.

  1. A disparate crew it is, those who left early, and all at different times and different causes. I don’t know what to make of them yet. (I just learned of another last week.) My mother sort of does, because I’m just about the only one of hers who hasn’t left. When something sparks her interest that she would share with one of them, she calls me.

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