Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My First Eulogy

It's now or never. I polished up the speech I will be delivering to everyone at J.Lass's memorial service. I tend to improvise, but not this time. I don't want to demean her memory with digressions and truisms. Refreshments in 2 hours and counting:

Jessica never cared much for politics. Right-wing, left-wing, she once stuck two straws up her nose as I babbled on about their intrinsic differences using condiments and cutlery as tableside puppets. Full disclosure: Bush was a pastry.

She first appeared in my diary - and in effect, my life - in a September 11th 2004 entry that began: "Jessica is an old fart at the over-ripened age of 20," a dig at her youthfulness. It was French class. We were instructed to introduce ourselves. And there she was, sitting by the door, an alien face wreathed in red. She was a live-action animation, a real-life Betty Boop. We instantly bonded over a shared aversion for that weird Asian kid with the sleazy grin, a sun baked Yeti in the "ugly white jumpah".

So here we were at the cafe, sitting by a pane of glass, seemingly overstretching our budgets at the mere mention of water. And there was Jessica, eyes so round you could drown in them, looking at me as if I was the crazy one. Politics just weren't her thing. Nor was it her thing to pretend to care. And that was what was refreshing about her: her ability to at once reconcile her limitations as well as exploiting them. Jessica was fearless of her own shortcomings because in her presentation, she had none. She could just as easily get in your face and coo truths only the tough could survive. Jessica was my very first friend in Montreal: we shared food, we shared clothes, essentially two giggly hobos new to the city. She was my confidante. She made me watch Charmed (and I really hated that show). And she witnessed every milestone I encountered in my first year of university. She didn't make it so lonely.

Her life was not without tragedy, though friends, she did not lack. And when she sauntered into a room ablaze with the curious and strange, she was a poster-child of self-possession, knowing full well no one could stay away. It was that laugh: a combination of spontaneous combustion and forceful cheer, addictive as it was contagious. And when she put her arms around you, it was behind those pursed lips that you understood that she genuinely cared. She had a sixth sense about human behaviour and, however full her plate, she'd always offer to soothe your pain and help overcome those bastards in your life - in my life.

And I was her "baby", always was. She taught me how to navigate around unfamiliar faces in unattractive places (and vice versa). I'd smell brownies in the oven upon entering the flat, and she'd make rich macaroni 'n cheese bound solely by butter. Yet, I felt smothered by her maternal-likeness. I wasn't used to her brand of love. She began her sentences with Do, Don't, and Never. So here she was, eating chocolate bars on the bed, and there I was, snickering at her instead. "Too melodramatic," I insisted. "Too exhausting to keep up." I tried to purge her from my system, relegate her from a bookmark to a footnote - blissfully unaware of her foresight. Because when it came to matters of the heart, she was no fool.

So I'd be lying if I said I was surprised when she called me out of the blue a week prior to the accident. "How are you, baby?" she sing-songed in that Irish tilt. "Join me for a quick coffee." (You know she loved her coffee.) I hesitantly declined her offer, schoolwork this and that. But here she was, a voice in my life again, assuring me she hadn't forgotten who I was - she remembered everyone. So I promised to catch up with her after the break. I missed her chutzpah, not to mention her charm. Then I got the distressing news on the train home. My heart sank into an unknown state. We were supposed to meet, like old times, like old times. I was arrogant then and I was arrogant now, I thought she'd be here forever. Jessica was everything to everyone, but most of all, a friend. She was unforgiving in her generosity, she was unapologetic for her appeal. She gave and gave and gave, and in one mighty stroke, He took. It's not fair, her visions were still unfolding. But I remember her accomplishments, the ones she was so proud of. In the words of George Santayana, "a man who has done his natural duty, death is as natural as sleep." She did everything that could be done, no opportunity escaped. So I refuse to mourn for the "what ifs" and "whens", I refuse to remember her for her potential. I, instead, choose to remember her for the wonderful person she was and the wonderful way she made us feel.

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