I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d say to her, given the chance. It’s a pointless endeavor, for sure, considering she’s been dead for almost three years. Or is it more than three years? She died when Alex was a baby, a couple months before I got pregnant with my daughter.
One last conversation. What would I say to her?
I could tell her that I admired her from the moment I met her, when we were eleven and thirteen, respectively; just kids, really. There was an instant chemical reaction between us, the kind that occurs once or twice in a lifetime, if you’re really lucky. It’s like our cells pulled us toward other. We would be friends. Our cells were determined. So were The Fates.
We’d always be thrown in front of each other, at this party or that. She dated one of my best friends for a very long time. She was friends with the little sister of one of my older friends. We were both talented cellists – although her talent was far beyond mine – which meant we were in orchestra together for a couple of years.
In Beethoven’s String Quartet Number, he scribbled Grave, (Muss es sein?/Must it be?), Allegro (Es muss sein!/It must be!), and that’s how I thought of our friendship, of any good friendship:
Must it be? It must be.
I’ve stopped believing in the randomness of the universe and when I think back to all of the times we happened upon each other, once again, I realize: It Must Be.
Would I tell her how I admired her when she walked tall and proud so sure of herself, while the rest of us shuffled along; all elbows and knees, not sure what we stood for? Because I admired the hell out of her. Bracelets jangling, jeans hugging her hips, a vintage Stones t-shirt effortless put together, she was larger than life at age sixteen.
I’d never known anyone like that before.
I’d never known anyone who would take my side, either. Every other friend I’d had shoved me under the bus at wink of an eye or waggle of the hips; the betrayals vaguely reminiscent of my childhood, where no one had ever been on my side. When she showed up to tell my cheating boyfriend to fuck off or my former friend that she was being a total asshole, I was stunned. It had always just been me. Defending, well, me. Maybe I’d tell her that it was sad that I was twenty before I knew that kind of friendship.
Maybe I’d tell her that I’d lived my life the daughter of a bipolar alcoholic and I was sorry that she’d found herself there, too. Because I was. So sorry. We’d tried to reach her, my God we tried, but she was lost in the bottle and not a single one of us who had loved her back when she sparkled and shone, not one of us could get through. But we tried because we still loved her and we still believed that she was in there.
I could tell her that her funeral was so full of people who loved her that it was standing room only.
That when the string trio started playing “As Tears Go By,” the entire room wept. We all wept at the tragedy of losing someone who had so much of that sparkle, so much of that shine.
How the image of her two sons screaming and wailing to, “See MOMMY!” as they shut the casket will be forever seared into the brains of so many as the most heartbreaking thing we’ve ever seen.
She is so, so loved.
I could tell her that two years later, I still cannot talk about her without crying. How I cannot hear “Tears Go By” without weeping. How I still have her phone number in my address book. How I dedicated Band Back Together to her because I think the stigma of mental illness and alcoholism and all those demons we hide, I think that’s bullshit. How I think she’d like the site.
I guess I could tell her any of those things if I saw Stef again. But I think she’d already know.
Maybe I’d just hug her one last time, have one last laugh and say the right words: Must it be? It must be.