I kinda just want to email someone and ask. That’s how much I don’t believe it. Yes, denial is a stage of grief, and I suppose that’s where I’m planted now. I don’t even know who to email.
I was mildly annoyed that my friend Jess hadn’t emailed me back. The last time I saw her was April 12, 2006. She had a mixer to attend downtown, and we’d arranged to meet up beforehand.
April 11, 2006
Okay. I’ve got a perfect spot, right nearby. It’s called FIVE POINTS. It’s a restaurant/bar (secretly, I love their oyster and drink happy hour)… and it should be quiet for us to catch up. It’s address:
31 Great Jones Street (bw lafayette st & bowery). It’s 4 blocks from where your event is…cool?
Just give me a time, and I’m there
April 11, 2006
cool. see you around 5:30/5:45. can’t wait to see you!
May 2, 2006
HOW ARE YOU? Did you ever make it through the Martha Beck cds? What’s going on with you?
I miss you. I love you.
May 12, 2006
Through the years I’ve continued to email her, hoping that she hadn’t switched emails on me. The mail was never returned “undeliverable,” so I assumed she received them. That, or she was traveling again.
Jess had started up a company for authentic travel experiences. If a region was known for goat cheese, say, she’d hook you up with a family who’d teach you how to milk the goats and make the cheese. She had a passion for it. In January 2006 she had emailed:
Ok, my friend, this is it. You remember a while ago
(actually less than two years, yes? but to the mind an
eon) when you were unhappy and life was shit and “Oliver” [from Straight Up and Dirty]
was a perpetual heartache? Remember how we talked
about your needing to do something for yourself,
really FIND yourself – spend time to learn about, and
learn to enjoy, yourself?
Well, here I am.
Fortunately for me, it’s a positive, happy place. It’s
a place I’ve found myself in after months (if not
years) of prolonged struggle and dissatisfaction. And
it’s like it all came together at once – the
continental divide of myself, backwards, in hyper
Anyway, so it’s all good. Or most of it. But I may
have some opportunities in the near-horizon (like next
2 months) that would require me to act, and act fast.
And I need your help to prepare.
I’m talking total makeover, prepping me for public
relations and self-promotion, the whole nine. Girl,
I’m becoming the Oprah Winfrey of Social Enterprise.
Oh dear, please let me pull this off!
So, please, old friend, won’t you be part of my next
transformation, back into myself, into womanhood?!
I really want to share this with you (I also know
you’re uniquely qualified – honestly, you could start
a lifestyle makeover business! – and so I’ve selfish
motives, of course). (And I’m bringing a camcorder, so
you’ll be in your element, dahlink!)
Tell me when. My schedule is ridiculously flexible
(more on that later), but it might also be fun to make
a weekend out of it? My wheels are turning…
What’s your brainstorming yielding?
So tell me when, tell me when. Let’s start planning
this. I’m going to Israel Feb 16-26 with my Mom
(YAYA!!!) and Steve (phfluchhhhh), so it needs to be
before then. I’m also going down to New Orleans on a
sort of a relief mission — that’s a whole ‘notha
story!–at the end of this month.
Please can you squeeze me in, huh, huh? Hey, alumna
connections are supposed to hold sway…!
Then on March 9, 2006, Jess’s mom passed away from breast cancer. I didn’t have her address and her phone had been disconnected. I had reached out and tried to pay a shiva call, but I didn’t hear from Jess until April.
April 3, 2006
I’m sorry that I didn’t get your response – I would
have loved to have seen you. I did become much
stronger in the process, but now I’m at a crossroads.
With her gone, there is no reason to stay in NJ. I
have parted with my job, and now need to come up with
my next strategy, but am having a hard time figuring
out where and what. Quite frankly, your plan of
writing, photographing is sounding quite appealing.
I’ve thought of a book about me and my mom. But then
I’m also pulled towards supporting the field of social
enterprise (not-for-profits starting businesses) and
social-purpose business. And of course the call of the
beyond has a great pull – right now, it seems that Sri
Lanka is calling me. I’m lost right now.
How are you?
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the conversations
you and I had regarding “Oliver.” Ben is back in the
picture (he left me during the worst time in my life),
and he’s offering me the love he never did, says he’s
thinking about marriage, wanted to move in this
summer, etc. Part of me feels like I should be alone
to grieve, to figure out who I am and where I’m going.
The other part thinks is silly to turn away love, when
it’s something I wanted so much from him, and now he’s
giving me what I had dreamt of. It’s silly to turn
away support during a time when I could use all the
support in the world.
But then, will my love for him keep me in NJ, where I
don’t want to be? Or, is staying here right? God,
Steph, I am a seed on the wind – I just need to decide
where and how to sprout.
April 3, 2006
At least you’re a seed looking to grow, girl. Oh how I wish I could hug you right now. I am moving to Austin, TX on April 15, and I would really like to see you before I go. Just the two of us. Warm mugs of tea or coffee or cocoa. I want to take care and catch up with my good friend. I went to a conference yesterday called “Being Fearless.” I have so much I want to talk to you about, what I learned there. Sweet girl, the beautiful thing is you have all the answers inside you right now. Deep down, do you think you know what is right for you right now, but you’re just scared you’re making a mistake? I will read up on this feeling. I have an excellent book that helped me through my hardest times, and it speaks about how to tell the difference between fear (even though you know it’s the right thing to do) and fear (when it’s telling you to pay attention). Sometimes it’s so hard to know what our gut instinct is… and how to live with that decision. Let’s chat.
April 10, 2006
Yes, chatting sounds very good. Somehow, it seems like
you’ve wound up with all the answers, and here I am,
looking about me like a timid child, not even knowing
what questions to ask.
TEXAS??? What the heck are you doing?!
I am coming into the city tomorrow for a mixer, or
could come in this weekend, though I’m sure you’re too
jammed right before your move
I made the time. I saw her two days later, on April 12. Then, I emailed her once I moved to Texas, on May 2 and again on May 12, where this blog post begins.
When we met on April 12, I gave her 20 CD’s I’d copied from the Being Fearless conference I’d recently attended. When I’m lost, I listen to self-help CDs. I figured they couldn’t hurt. I love my friend, deeply. I wanted to help in any way I could. She was grieving her mother’s death, a little over a month ago, and I let her know that I was there for her.
I assumed all this time that Jess was off traveling. But the other day, after sending her yet another email, I googled her ass. And I found zero. Nothing on social media. Nothing on people finder sites. So, I then googled her mother Lillian, whose date of death I knew. Finally, I stumbled upon possible relatives and saw Jessica’s name. It listed her as deceased.
No. It couldn’t be the same Jess. I met Jess during orientation week, BEFORE our first year at Columbia University. I knew how she introduced herself, knew her strong purposeful handshake, knew how she liked her eggs. I knew nearly everything about her, slept in bed with her, strategized outfits and nights out together. They’ve got the wrong Jess.
I googled further, then read, “Committed suicide one month after mother’s death,” and I gasped, frantically checking my email chains for dates.
This is all so new to me, this news, and yet, it happened so long ago. According to the records I’ve found, Jessica died 4 days after my last email to her. I’d sent it on May 12. She died on May 16, less than a month since the last time I saw her on April 12. I want answers. I have the email addresses of all of those she contacted when her mother passed, and I’m tempted to email some of them, wanting so much to find out what happened. But that would be weird, right? It’s just so fresh for me, and I have no one with whom to talk about this. I realize that there aren’t always answers, and often we are left to live with unanswered questions, still I’m left shaking my head.
She was gorgeous and funny, whip smart and deeply connected to making change in this world. I’ve missed her all these years, and I miss her more now, knowing that I’ll never receive one of her insightful emails again, feel that handshake, or see that smile. This is a photo from my 28th birthday party. I cannot find more recent photos yet.