Dear Natalia

I’m sorry.

I’ve been saying for almost 9 years that I would tell a different story. That I would move past that first response. That first purge of emotion. That first try at processing what had happened. The story I post every year on this day. The anniversary of the day we lost you.

 https://themadmadder.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/for-a-fallen-friend/

But, every year, as I get closer and closer to this day, I don’t know what to say, what story to tell, what way would be best to keep you with us, what words will tell those unlucky to not have known you that they missed out.

You see I haven’t been honest with you. I’ve told you that I’m waiting until I choose the perfect story. First  I waited until it had been 5 years since that would mean more. But maybe now I should wait one more year so it’ll be 10? I told you that, since you were an English teacher, I just needed to tighten up the grammar or refine the story line just a little bit more until it was worthy.

But that’s not what has been holding me back. The truth is that I can’t move past wondering: if I hadn’t talked you into racing, if I hadn’t told you that it was all for fun and you could just push yourself around the laps even if the leaders lapped you, if we might not have had a few more years with you?

I know, intellectually, that I am not to blame for the unlucky flaw in your heart that took you from us. I know, intellectually, that we could have easily lost you sooner with how hard you charged at the world. But the intellect doesn’t always do the best of job of chatting with our other kind of heart.

So, I am sorry.

I’m not responsible for our losing you. But I am sorry that I’ve been holding back stories because I wasn’t ready to tell the world about that struggle.

Recently, though, I’ve been channeling you more. You faced days (almost always pathologically sleep-deprived) with a sense of humour. No matter how ridiculous the side-effects of our adventures, we could laugh over a shared beer and never risk taking ourselves too seriously. You weren’t perfect and neither was our friendship, but we had fun. So I’m going to stop overthinking this day. You wouldn’t want us mourning. We should laugh.

So I’ll throw out a few of my favourite memories of the everyday normal into the mix and I’m asking the others missing you on this day to share some of the same.

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We were just about to head out to a hockey tournament when your horse, Pandora, standing calmly in the cross-ties for the last 5 minutes, whipped her head up and hit me full in the face. We drove up to Vermont, blood coursing out of my nose no matter how much head tilting or forceful pinching was applied, laughing hysterically about how I would have to be the goon since I had black eyes and blood all over.

Another year, at another hockey tournament, a bunch of us went out shopping for rock climbing gear in the break between games. We both bought climbing helmets and wore them driving back to the rink. We had our hockey gear in the car and your skates smelled so bad that everyone made you hold them out the window so that we wouldn’t die from asphyxiation. We got a lot of odd looks. You might have been the only person whose gear smelled worse than mine.

You came out to help build trails when I joined a local LUNA Chix mountain biking team. You didn’t know much about mountain biking, but you wielded tools with a flourish and a grin and rode the newly built trails with humor as you tipped off bridges and rode your first teeter totter.

You let me work at your nightclub despite the fact that I was woefully unqualified to do much of anything. I worked coat check, bar backed, and sucked royally as a bartender. After the last person was shoved out the door, far too far past 4am, we would, along with Larry and anyone else foolish enough to join us, drink an unnecessary drink, and review the photos (with inappropriate commentary aplenty) from the night for the club website. We’d finish the night with roughly 5am breakfast. The only time in my life that I was a regular at a breakfast joint that served omelets before sunrise in the summer.

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I’ve figured it out you see. The problem is that I’ve been trying to remember you perfect in order to stop thinking of what could have been. I’ve forgiven myself for something I couldn’t have prevented.

From now on, I’m going to remember you real. 

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