Last year, I said I was done posting about my friend Jenn and how she died in a car accident on January 17, 2009. I’d rehashed the story so many times it had lost its meaning. I felt guilty. She died while I was asleep. I cried. I bought flowers. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is immortality. I was so afraid of forgetting that I had forgotten the best parts of knowing Jenn. Mourning became an obligation that I had reduced to a formula for the easiest processing.
Last year, I said I was too old for that. It had been five years. I was older. I’d kissed boys. I had a full time job. I wasn’t eighteen anymore. I was an adult, and it was time I grew up.
Well, last year I was wrong. Like it or not, I can’t just erase what rocked my world six years ago. I can’t go back and smile more. I don’t get re-do my first year of college and make sure I’m a more open, friendly person. I won’t pretend that Catholicism hasn’t helped me feel better. I can’t go back and meet all the friends I should have had. I can say I won’t post about it, won’t talk about it, won’t even think about it, but that isn’t going to change the fact that I spent six years doing just that.
I want to keep posting about Jenn because I don’t want to ever look at a picture of my friends in high school and struggle to remember her name. I don’t want to see her face and wonder where I met her or how or why. But, instead of rehashing the same old details about guilt and grief, I’m going to do something different. I can’t help wanting to write about her, so I’m going to write down a memory. It will probably be stupid. We were in high school, and everything back then was chalkboards, assigned seats, and crazy spirit week outfits. Who cares?
This one time, we were in biology class together, and we were supposed to be doing a science project. It was advanced biology, which meant there had to be something that set us apart from the plebeian masses. We had to do a science project that employed the scientific method, and then we had to write up our results with graphs and science like we knew what we were doing. It was terrible. I didn’t have any burning questions about the universe. I figured most of what I needed to know could be read in a book. But, I did care about grades, and it was kind of mandatory. Jenn and I did what any sixteen-year-old slackers would do: we picked the easiest project we could think of. We decided to let vegetables rot in my basement, and we pretended like our results would actually impact the world.
I remember, the vegetables were really molding something fierce one night she came over after school. We were poking the crusty layers of mold with a fork, trying to think of a way we could quantify our results. She suggested we measure what was left of the vegetables…only, we couldn’t seem to see them (see: crusty layers of mold). Enter my bare hand. The mold actually made a sound when my fingers pierced its mottled visage. My fingers curled around and emerged with a fat pile of stinky mush, and Jenn ran away screaming with our clipboard. It was pretty gross, but, on a different level, I definitely enjoyed making her squeal with disgust. That was when I learned that I would pretty much stick my hand in anything for the story. Since then, my hands have been in moldy compost and a bowl of maggots.
I don’t know what my hands added or detracted from the scientific-ness of our experiment. I don’t even remember the grade we got. I do remember it was one of the first times we signed a group project with our nickname: Jen(n)2. I do remember feeling like she was my friend for the first time, and not just because we knew the same people or were in the same class. I also remember her telling me she had a relative who was a truck driver, but I’m not sure why that matters…
I know. I broke the promise I made last year. I still made a post about Jenn, but here’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t stay up all night last night worrying. I didn’t spend all day trying to write this post, rereading old essays on the same subject. I didn’t request off work. I didn’t change my profile picture or look at her Facebook page. I didn’t even wear all black. In fact, I actually referred to my black dress as “my party dress” today, instead of thinking of it as “my funeral dress.” (That’s right. I’m going to a party tonight. Take that, guilt!)
So, maybe I can’t forget I loved her that easily. Maybe I can’t forget I cried that easily. Maybe there are too many Irish ballads about dying well and comfortable. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I am happy today. I am happy because I am growing up, and that can mean whatever I want it to.