Hathaway Brown School
Instructor: Elizabeth Armstrong
A Letter to my Dead Friend
Personal Essay & Memoir
A Letter to my Dead Friend
June 29th, 2022
I want to thank you for visiting me in my dreams because I am entirely grateful to be able to see you and talk to you again. Even so, I know there is a veil just thick enough that keeps me from truly grasping what you look like or how heavy your hand is, or if your voice is really there or just a recording I have played over and over and taught new words to. I want to thank you for visiting but I am so caught up in anger and shock that you left the way you did, that it makes it hard for me to see straight sometimes. I want to thank you but what if you really are entirely gone, and I am making things up in my head? What will become of my thanks if there is no one to accept them?
The first night I dreamt you, you were exactly as I remember you, and the second you were not. A dark orange shirt and you had a little stubble growing, and I wondered if maybe it was an illusion designed to look like you. I walk and talk and breathe, and still I cannot reconcile with the pieces you have left behind. There was a beautiful sunset tonight and I could hear your voice in my head; I could see your feet propped up against the fence looking out at something you have never seen before. I told myself this night didn't matter because you lived a thousand others that were wonderful and long and that you had a happy life- experiences galore but only enough to last just under thirty-two years.
Too short of a time, friend, and I want to thank you but I am so so angry. You are not anywhere I can grasp except my dreams, and even that is too far and unknown in between. Thirty-two years is almost nothing, and you were so full of this deep dark feeling that you took a gun to yourself? Violence is a scary thing; I am forever weighed down by that befalling you.
Your name still feels comfortable. I try not to throw it around because it is one of the last things of yours that I have, and I think it will never be enough. I found out two days ago. Today it was three weeks.
It has been 25 Tuesdays since I found out you left us. Almost 26. They moved your desk and now it is no man's land. Four days after you died I had a dream that I held your hand — I believed if I squeezed your fingers tight enough I might drag you back through to the real world. I don't look for you in the halls anymore but sometimes a man will walk into the restaurant where I work and I am certain that it is you. That you are still here. I don't know where your grave is and maybe like Schrodinger's cat, that means that it doesn't exist. I have kept walking and talking and breathing but there is a piece of me stuck in that first Tuesday of June. It has been four years since I was in your classroom, and now I am back in my old seat. You are not. And I am still here I am still here I am still here. We miss you like a routine — like it is in our bones and blood. Even since you left you have not become past tense. We love you. We miss you. You are remembered. You are you are you are.
I have not found peace but I have found quiet.
I wanted to thank you.
Pink Gel Pens
Pink Gel Pens
I think (I hope) I am at the height of my teenage angst.
On Friday the girl next to me in first period was writing with a bright pink gel pen
and I thought to myself that she must be normal.
Her nails were pink too.
I have given up my blood and brain and roots
and I think for that maybe I am easier to digest.
I haven't cried in a while but I have come close.
I recited a prayer in a language I do not speak
when I thought the boy my best friend loves was dying.
Keeping the faith.
I miss I miss I miss I miss,
and I am not sure if they miss me.
They are all my stories.
I think I will be fine (I am a bit brittle).
I said I am wildly depressed — I am not, probably.
Maybe conflicted and a writer: artist troubled and teenaged.
After all, I am nothing if not obsessive.
We will never be there again; accidentally on purpose.
He sent me a voice message and he was older,
and I am thrashing around like a fish out of water.
But mostly I am good and quiet.
Every day for a year I have handed out clementine slices at lunch
to those I love. Clementia the goddess of forgiveness:
forgive me, I love you. Orange? Take a slice?
Take my offer? Forgive me.
I used to hope for something physical as proof
that the world was working and spinning and breathing.
Jeeps and bird flocks for love and cancer.
Neither is a threat anymore, because I am healthy (angsty).
I wasn't left with anything physical and recently
remembered there is an undeveloped photo of me
in my car before everything went wrong.
Electra and Orestes. Brutal or kind/pensive or honest;
it is for her to see and learn from.
So in some sense, it is physical.
A mark I cannot see. To remember.
It will never go away completely, and sometimes
it is April 29th again, and sometimes
early fall and February face me (grief) and
it is just love in a heavy coat.
There will always be an angry man in the house
(it is me: I am angry, making up for the man that was not there
and rarely upset).
Later I will have words for everything. Not now.
Everything I was afraid of happening, happened.
It is manic — the feeling of this; like I am
pretending to be the girl with the bright pink gel pen.
Like I have done this before.