I’m cleaning out the “laundry room”, an awkwardly named room full of dirty clothes, cat litter, summer stuff for kids and all the crap I don’t know where else to put. In the middle of empty boxes, dryer fluff and dried herbs, there’s a box.
Mostly, the letters between Mogo and I, the written documentation of the person, long ago, I fell in love with. The good person who listened and cared, who was funny and ballsy and pretty damn awesome.
Fuck me it hurt to read those, to hear that voice again, that voice I haven’t heard in so long, lost behind who we became, grew into. I loved him.
I stopped reading after one. It wasn’t worth the hurt. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to dump them into the garbage. Not today. Maybe never. In those envelopes are my daughter’s parents, before everything else, when a faint lust flowered in ink, an understanding, a camaraderie. He was so beautiful to me then. I remember that, how excited I would become when a letter would arrive, how I would read each letter over and over, how good it felt to have one certain person in my world, someone who would always tell me hey, it IS ok.
It’s not ok.
I tucked them back into the old box, slogans from my misspent youth scrawled across it, when a letter fell out.
Red hair, huge grin, lively porcelain skin. Perfectly wonderful and yet blandly un-entertaining. She would write me the odd letter when I moved from her town to “the big city”, and I never wrote back, having nothing to say to someone I rarely spoke with, someone I was only tenuously connected to via her boyfriend who liked to play Asshole and sit quietly staring at everyone. Normal in every way, destined to teach, become a mother perhaps, live a full life and die. I never wrote her back that I remember, or maybe once I did. I was pretty high most of the time then, and she didn’t fit in to where I sat, her beauty and the stunning normality of her life a brick wall that breathed heavily on me as it sat, hostile between us.
I didn’t think of her for years. Until Facebook, and I thought, wow, I never wrote her back. I felt bad, a hollow ache I felt about most things from that time, a manic period like no other in my life, when I scorned all that which didn’t burn like magnesium in front of my very eyes. Many a common friendship, lost then, because I couldn’t handle the mundane.
But when I looked for her, when I typed in her name and saw in my mind her lovely face, the hair I envied, I found the one thing I didn’t want to, didn’t dream of seeing for anyone my age, just starting on their life, when you’re honest.
There was an accident one night, on the cold highway linking much of Ontario to the rest of Canada, a twisting road I’ve driven, terrified. A sudden, horrid accident, taking her sister and brother as well. I found she had been a student near me, maybe even at the same time, and I never knew, same school, same town. She grew into a profession she loved.
She had died, and I had never bothered to say hello, or goodbye. She was gone, and I had never really known her.
Mortality has always been part of me, more so than most people I meet. I have a keen, if not outsized sense of how close we are, how easily we can fall from this world and into whatever waits. I know we are mortal beings, more likely to float away into dust than meet a maker or live forever in a heaven made of gumdrops and cream cheese. But there is something about a 27 year old woman, just beginning her life, her career, maybe waiting until it’s right to meet her children, dying in a car crash coming home from a movie, that just isn’t right, or fair.
Or easy to swallow. I expected to be well into my thirties before my friends started to die, but then also thought how lucky I am that none of my friends HAD died. Some had been sick, and recovered. Some lost, then found. But none gone, torn from life like this. A page ripped out that I would never be able to read.
I don’t much like regret. I feel it’s wasted. But I regret this-that I never took the time to be a better friend, to be a good person. And that the words she wrote, the thoughts she gave, I never returned.
I thought there’d be more time.