Wednesday, May 24, 2006


No. I hung up the office phone in disbelief. He had made a mistake, gotten the details confused once again. I pushed aside a file folder, envelopes, and committee report and unearthed the morning paper laying on my desk. I flipped to the page he indicated, breathless with anticipation. There it was in black and white. Crumpled metal, shattered glass, and the names. Her name. He had gotten the story right for once.

I reread the blurb over and over, hoping it would say someone different each time. I stared and breathed. Tears were on a five minute delay. No, not her, I repeated to myself. A drop of moisture slipped down my cheek, followed by another on the other side. Soon my eyes spilled down my face in a torrent and my chest heaved for air.

"What's wrong?" my supervisor asked as she entered the room.

I couldn't say it. If I said it, then it would be real and I was sure I was going to wake up at any second. I handed her the paper. Her eyes scanned the page until the reason for my sorrow registered.

"You know them?"

Not them. Her. I know her. Knew her. At one time I knew her like I knew myself. She was the new girl in my fourth grade class. Light brown waves, jumbled teeth, narrow nose, non existent lips. I liked her immediately, at least I wanted to. She had no history with us. There was no puking on the school bus incident that trailed her from first grade. No accidental bathroom break on the swings at recess the previous year. She could be whoever she wanted, create a brand new identity. Through her, I hoped I could as well.

By the fifth grade we were in seperable.

"You two are no longer allowed to sit near each other," our teacher would say after hearing too many whispers in the back of the classroom.

She was the recipient of the first note I ever passed.

"The gym teacher is a bitch! I bet she's a lesbo," I wrote. My parents were called for that one.

In the 8th grade she joined the Aqua Net addict and me when we tied a rope around the neck of a stuffed cat, dragged it through our junior high's halls and called it Pussy on a Rope.

"Would you like to pet my pussy," we asked the Technology teacher. My parents were once again summoned.

She flew under the radar, her mischief never detected. I admired and envied that about her.

In high school our assigned lockers put too much distance between us. We drifted silently into separate circles. I didn't notice when she no longer made my Best Friends list. We still spoke at lunch and shook it at school dances, but there were no more phone calls and plans to hang out at the mall. Graduation day was the last time we spoke. Reading the newspaper brought her to mind for the first time since the ceremony.

My supervisor wrapped her arms around me. I sobbed, but my shoulders were rigid.

"Do you want to go home?"

I shook my head no. It was a lie. I wanted to call my high school friends and cry into the phone while buried beneath my covers. But I couldn't ask for that. I didn't have the right. I knew her, but I didn't know her anymore. It would be fake to grieve for someone who had been lost to me for years.

"You're a mess. Call for a ride home," she insisted.

I had no energy to protest again. I dialed my father's work number.

"Can you come get me?" I sniffed.

Guilt consumed me. She was gone and I was getting a day off from work. I cried while I waited for Daddy and I cried some more as we rode home.

"Ah shah," he comforted in his native language. The words brought on a new onslaught.

I went back to work 48 hours later.

"I'm sorry for your loss," a coworker said.

What did I lose? I kept asking myself. That evening I walked through my elementary school while my younger brother sang in the 6th grade chorus recital. I passed her locker, then mine.

"Liz, wait up!" I could hear her voice echoing in the empty corridor. I heard laughter and rumors and everything we shared outside the classroom.

Over the next few days I spoke with many of my old classmates. She wasn't the first one we lost. I knew the other two as well. I even had a short lived crush on one of them in junior high. But this loss was different. When she died, possibilities died with her. There would be no chance meeting at the mall, no playing catch up at the 10 year reunion, no rediscovery of the friendship that faded. I felt bad when I found out about the deaths of the ones before her. But with her it was deeper. Her, I missed.

She was buried a couple days before her 2oth birthday. In the six years that have passed, I have thought about her so many times. I think about her on Flatty Girl's birthday, because it was her birthday too. I think about her when I'm driving. And I think about her when I see her in the face of a stranger. And for the split second that I want to run and say hi, I forget that she's gone and I'll never say anything to her again.


Anonymous said...

Wow I'm sorry for lost! God Bless u! You are in my prayers

clew said...

Lovely, lovely post. Powerful.

I'm missing a friend today too. My thoughts are with you. *hugs*

Cece said...

The pain... the memories Neither goes away. Ever. And that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I think that the deaths after high school are the hardest to get over for some reason--maybe because you are no longer surrounded by people who knew her and had similar relationships with her. You are without a support system of people whi "get it."

Anonymous said...

I just wrote a long ass response and this shit got deleted so I'm not gonna re-write it!

But I will say, this is one of my favorite blogs you've written hands down.

The Rev said...


Superstar said...

Your words are so powerful, that I felt as if my heart would stop beating and that I were in your shoes! Hope you can use your words to celebrate all the happiness you shared. ;o)

Trouble said...

that was a beautiful post. It reminds me of the first college classmate we all lost, it was so sad, he was engaged to one of my good friends. That was the first time death really hit home for us. So sad.

Diane Mandy said...

I lost someone in a similar way with a similar history. Your post reminds me of him and that day that I'll never forget.

Martie said...

Death is sad...and yet it is a celebration for the one who has gone! Grieving can last a long, long time as you well know. What a heartfelt post...very powerful.

Anonymous said...

Its so sad when a young person dies.

Did I know her? Who was she?

RJ March said...

I wasn't sure you were writing about an actual event or a piece of fiction-- you have the gift of telling a story well.

You sounded like you were a real handful back in the day.

Anonymous said...

rj march...this woman has come a LOOOONG way! She even got ME in trouble back in the day.

Christina_the_wench said...

Your writing is superb. And I am sorry for your loss as well. Remember the good times. She would want that.:)

Trish said...

this is a lovely remembrance. I think if we remember the lost ones, then they really do live on... in our hearts.

Anonymous said...

Even though you drifted apart, it's still a very real loss. My childhood best friend and I became less close after I moved away, but if anything happened to her I'd be devastated.

Michelle said...

Oh girl - you are truly an awesome writer. I could "feel" everything you described as if I were in your shoes.

I'm sorry you are missing your friend right now, but I also see that you are keeping her memory alive.

I don't know if you saw my reply to you on my blog, but not only are we from the same state, we are from the same city I think.

nikki said...

absolutely beautiful. this was so moving and powerful. i love your writing, sista. i felt all the love and sense of loss and regret you poured into this piece.

now let me clean up my face cuz now i'm crying about someone on a blog who wrote about losing someone.

again, just beautiful writing...

Mocha said...

wow. that was incredibly powerful and so honest.

It's amazing that you can drift apart from someone but something about what you had for the time that you had it can effect you for the rest of your life. That was a beautiful post.

Thank you for sharing. said...

I have someone I feel exactly the same way about...their death anniversary was Monday.

princessdominique said...

I feel you so very deeply on this one. I'm sorry for your loss. You two had a history. Losing that history is painful.

i like liquor and tv said...

so sad.

The Sarccastik Variable Why said...

sorry to hear about your lost...i'll send a prayer out for u...

Sangindiva said...

This was so moving and honest.
I think we can all related to the drifting of friends
and memories when they are gone because we never thought it would happen... so soon... and like that.

Anonymous said...

So beautiful; this one touched me right where I live.

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Cheetarah, this is so beautiful and so sad. Your writing made me want to know your friend so I could get in trouble with the two of you in grade school.

Strange how we sometimes drift apart from people, but I wonder if you ever really did drift apart? It sounds like she lived in your heart all along, and still does.

Excuse me, I came here to talk about the Pistons and the Suns, but now I'd better go find Nikki. Maybe she's found some tissue so we can all cry together.

Anonymous said...

Wow!! I'm sorry to hear about your loss too. But I must say!! I honestly thought this was an excerpt from a book you may have been writing. Just reading this little bit had me all ready to finish the story. You have truly found your calling!!