I had some terrible news the other day.  I’ve been too upset to really write anything for the blog.  Here’s something that I wrote in my journal which explains.  Typing it out, it all seems terribly self-absorbed.  I didn’t intend to post it up at first, but some people here convinced me.  

-T

 —-

 

Ivan called Tuesday night to tell me that our friend Leah had died in a car accident in Ghana.  The news came like a suckerpunch to the stomach.  I just gasped over and over.  I was staring out over the breakwater to the dark of the night sky.  I couldn’t bring myself to say anything intelligible and after a while Ivan let me go.  I stayed there for a long time holding onto the furled jib and crying over the dark water with its uncaring fish.

 

Nothing made sense.  The marina, the boats, and the bright city lights that faded out over the sea were all pointless.  The engines of the planes landing nearby drowned me out as I cried out pathetically.  I couldn’t believe that she was gone.  I was so angry that she was.  I thought of all the people she had known who were feeling exactly as I was and yet I felt so very alone.  

 

I met Leah in DC through Minh.  She and I both worked for development-related nonprofits.  She was undeniably beautiful.  I walked her back from a party one night because we lived in adjoining neighborhoods.  Under the sodium yellow streetlights she remained aloof, but her temperament and charms were enticing.  She corrected my usage of the word “disinterested” in our conversation and I was sold on her.  I was seeing someone else at the time, but I felt an attraction to her right then.  

 

Over a year later, at Minh’s wedding, I told her about this moment; how I started liking her right then.  “You say such nice things” was her reply.  She stayed by me for the whole evening as we danced and ate and celebrated.  We ended up cuddling that night after the wedding party.  I held her in my arms and wondered, sometimes aloud, how we could arrange to have a future together.  I’d like to think that the interest she showed at the time was sincere.  

 

She told me about her roommate’s pet hedgehog and it became something of a running joke throughout the night and into the next day.  We stayed down in San Diego for another day of wedding-related events.  In the morning, in the hotel parking lot she did her impression of the hedgehog “anointing” itself.  This is a special type of grooming that hedgehogs do, like a cat licking its paws to clean its ears.  Leah’s impression of it was an ingot of pure cuteness as dense as a neutron star. 

 

I thought about her all the time in the following weeks.  On our roadtrip up to San Francisco from L.A., I discussed her at length with Ivan; pumping him for information about her and lamenting the geography that separated us.  

 

After I was laid off I emailed her about possibly meeting up with her n Ghana.  I was hoping that I could find a meaningful job out there as she had done.  She was oddly quiet for a while.  Then she emailed back to say that she had started dating someone from DC in the intervening period.  She said that she would love for me to come out, but only as a supportive friend.  The news crushed my hopes, but I appreciated her consideration.  

 

I knew I couldn’t be with her then, but the door was still open to some future potential.  When I was feeling my worst, when I was just pining for someone special in my life, or when I broke up with my next girlfriend, I would think back on her.  To me, she was a perfect, distant hope of happiness.  It was irrational, delusional, even, and I knew it.  Still, she made it easy to keep alive that small flame, so warm and bright.

 

Images of her, real and imagined, keep coming to me.  Her smile, her unbelievably blue eyes, her body being thrown from a car onto a road lined with red dirt.  Photos on facebook show her modeling her African dress with her roommate.  There are some where’s she’s at the beach, some from Minh’s wedding.  I’m thinking of her as a hedgehog. I’m thinking of her lying on her back on hot, dusty asphalt surrounded by concerned Ghanaians under a blue, blue sky.  

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