Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chasing Cars

I have wanted to write this post for many years, and never had the courage until now.

I had a friend named Ashley V.


We met in 1st grade and went to school together through 9th grade.  During those years we played softball on the same team and attended most of the same sleepovers.

She had a head full of extremely curly hair, which though I believe she came to appreciate in later years, was a subject of derision from the other kids in class, including me.  We were friends, but for the elementary school years, we still picked on each other a lot!  I always remember her being called "Curly Sue" and proclaiming, "I'm not Curly Sue; I'm Shirley Temple!"  For the record, I would refer to her as "Larry Fine".  Yes, from the Three Stooges.  And yes, I was an awesome child.

In 6th grade, we filmed a video project together for science class about the Bubonic Plague.  She demanded that she would portray Death and I was to be the flea-bitten guttersnipe afflicted with the Black Death.  In the film, she slashes me with a scythe which I manage to "fight off" and escape from, leaving her to address the audience with a cliffhanger:  "This is not The End?"

In the beginning of 9th grade, she, my best friend Jordan, and our other friend Michelle held a joint birthday party at Ashley's house.  Ash invited her ex-boyfriend, who took a liking to me and danced with me for every slow dance that entire night.  A particular highlight of this event, that is still referenced today, was her sucking a balloon full of helium and shouting "Meredith's got a boyfriend!  Meredith's got a boyfriend!" over the loudspeaker. By the way, dear readers, no fairy tale story came of this for young bracefaced Mer!

Ashley and I spent the front half of the day in the same classes in 9th grade, so we grew very close during that year.  One morning she came to 1st period Spanish pretty distraught.  She informed me that her father had taken a job in Ohio, and that the entire family would be moving out there before the school year ended.

Jordan hosted the going-away party, many people came, and our "core" group of girls spent the night.  We all claimed a cardboard star from the leftover party decorations, and wrote each other notes on all the spokes about how we would be friends forever and never forget each other, no matter where any of us moved.  That group of girls is smattered from Rhode Island to Texas now, and I still do talk to some on a regular basis, so I guess it was at least partly true.

To be honest, 2001 was BSM (Before Social Media), so I did not keep up with Ash as much as I could have or should have.  Jordan did, having always been the more "active" and considerate figure in friendships, and would often relay the hellos, regards, and important info between us.

From my understanding, the relocation hit Ashley pretty hard, as you can imagine it probably would for a young teen having to adjust to a brand new life.  I heard tales over the years that she suffered from mental health issues.  I didn't take it seriously, and to some degree chalked it up to emotional teenage theatrics.

I wish I could say she worked through it as she aged, and that we met up last year at our 10-year class reunion, her as an honorary member of our original high school class of course.  I wish I got to meet her spouse and see pictures of her children.  I wish I could say that.

I wish I could say I had reached out to her at any point in our teen years, and let her know that she actually did matter back at home, and that we hadn't all just forgotten what the cardboard star said.  I wish I could say that.

I wish I could say anything but the rest of this post, because the rest of this post is guilt that I have carried for nearly a decade.

One day in 2007, Jordan came to visit me at my part-time job in the mall.  She said she had to talk to me and asked if I could take a break.  We started talking and she told me Ashley had committed suicide.  At age 20.

I felt nothing at this news.  I told her that I already knew this because of comments I had read on Facebook.  I also told her that I couldn't be bothered with this right now because I was at work, and that I thought with all the build-up that she was coming to tell me something important.  This woman is still my best friend today, even though I essentially told her that I didn't care that her other best friend had died by her own hand.  What can I say?  She is a saint, and I need her grace to remind me to find my own.

I left and finished the work day.  I went over to my friend Ben's house afterward to hang out, which was a normal occurrence.  I went home, went to sleep, and woke up the next day perfectly normal.  I had to work again the next night, and before my shift I remember telling my dad the news, since of course he knew Ash for many years as well.

I got on the highway, and a song came on the air.  A song that moved me and brought all of my memories and feelings to the surface to crash through the wall of denial I had built around myself.  I was 19.  Too young to start losing friends.  How could this happen?  What could I have done?  Anything?  Would it ever matter?

The emotions were plain on my face, and when my younger coworker Jerome questioned whether or not I was okay, I ended up breaking down and crying in his arms right there in the backroom of the GameStop.  Unfortunately, at an even younger age, he had recently lost his own best friend that year.  To this day, I'm so thankful he was the one there in that room with me, and not one of the mouth-breathing mallrats with less, shall we say: "social graces".

It is 2015, and still every time I hear this song I think about that moment in the car, all the memories in this story, and how much of a fuck I was about it.  I always wanted to write a post about the song and what it means to me, but I couldn't stomach the idea of revealing how selfish I am.

But I guess 19 is the age of innocence and 28 is the age of maturity:

And an amazing cover, just because I can:

This is not The End?

1 comment:

veronica mowbray said...

Your are a awesome person