Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cosmic Joke

J.Lass died Monday evening. From what I could gather, she had been crushed under the wheel of an oncoming snow-removal truck. It's surreal, you know? She was 21-years-old, the first friend I made in Montreal. She was the sole witness to my every freshman experience. And although we had been growing apart lately, she still occasionally called to check up on me because I was her "baby". A fine specimen I turned out to be. She asked me to come out for a coffee two weeks ago and I, instead, politely declined to continue working on my essay. One coffee, one measly coffee, and I refused to tend to her. I should've gone. I hadn't seen her in months. Why didn't I go?

Because I never thought she'd die.

I found out from Swiss Alps as I was making my way to Toronto. He was getting ready to fly home too:

"Lily?" he asked, voice cracking under the strain. "You better sit down for this."

I expected him to ... No, I didn't expect anything. It wasn't right, it wasn't real. Why did it have to happen to her? "An accident", apparently preventable: another reason to mourn. It made me angry; I was numb. A million thoughts raced through my mind: who, what, where, when, why, why, why? "Oh my God," I kept repeating into the receiver, "oh my God." As if to fill an ever-expanding void, a gaping wound that won't heal, "Oh my God," I kept saying. What else was there to say? Was there anything more or less appropriate in a situation like this? What was the correct procedure? I was once again dumped onto foreign terrain, helpless to the fact. Life stood still even as it plummeted.

My life really felt like it was starting to come together again. I was meeting people, they were making an effort to get to know me, I wasn't so cautious anymore.

"It's funny," observed my seating neighbour on the train. "I always see you at Cinema du Parc, and I work there."

Reading between the lines, I could tell he was probably in his mid-twenties. We flirted, talked, teased, and shared reading material for the next four hours. He was handsome, very handsome. A hipster, stylishly put together. Cute, too cute. With a contagious cockeyed confidence. I didn't try to lure him, I wasn't especially witty. Like Oprah says, "If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away." It was a mantra I went over in my head to convince myself to wait out the silent lulls. He'd playfully sneak a peak at me and wait for me to notice. It was sexy. Patience was breeding results.

Then I got the phone call. It was strange: he said he was stunned too (but I didn't believe him). The range of emotions that began seeping into my consciousness felt too incoherent, fractured, disingenuous to reveal to a stranger -- I, not-too-subtly, changed the subject. He offered to drive me home from the station, "Am I going to see you again?"; his cockiness turned sweet, I kissed him goodbye.

I called Pav as I sat waiting in the bus terminal. Heeding no memory of his behaviour a few entries back, he was the only other mutual acquaintance she and I shared listed in my phonebook. "Lily! What a nice surprise to hear from you," he purred through the phone, oozing that famous brand of sex appeal. "Did you hear the news?" I cut in. "[J.Lass] was hit by a truck and," I choked, "she died. You two were close, I thought you deserved to know."

His response was similar to mine. Words were being spoken, but they had no value. They existed to lessen the impact, to take the focus off the blow. "Keep me, ya know, au courant." I assured him that I would. I needed to hear a familiar voice, comfort be damned. M. Biologique didn't pick up. Maybe I needed that. Two steps forward, one step back, forgive me for my moment of weakness. I was too traumatized to play petty games, yet I knew exactly what I was doing:

Tragedy makes the heart grow fonder -- pity grows into guilt. I fished for attention to feed the hungry heart. What could be more crude, more corrupt? I feel immense pressure from myself to cry and not stop for days. She deserves my grief, yet I have little grief to give. It's as if my sadness is not enough, I don't feel right that I'm not shell-shocked or in tremendous pain. I want to be punished, I want to hurt. This isn't how I'm supposed to feel. I am cold, I am wicked. I am ashamed.

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