When one of your life-long friends dies, it’s hard to know how to digest it.
I feel that I’m handling it considerably better than I did on Friday, but today, I’m left thinking where I go next.
Maybe I’m deep in limbo in the stages of grief. Acceptance can’t come this soon, but I’m mentally spent on being upset. I don’t advise anyone trying it. It’s exhausting.
So, once again, I’m going to use this blog for my own selfish reasons. I going to write about her, because I haven’t been able to. To be clear, when I say her, I mean Cate, not Cate’s death. The details of her death are not important, they are not a reflection of her, they are not who she was.
Cate was… the coolest person I knew. She was only a few months older than me, but she was light-years ahead.
I don’t know when I first met Cate, but I do know why. Our fathers were best friends. They got their PhD’s together, and every year we would visit Cate and her family on our way to visit relatives in New York. Cate was always impossibly sweet and kind, but there was something about her that was very grown-up and infectious. Even when I was small, I realized that she knew more, did more, and was more worldly than I would ever be. I hung on her every word, and throughout childhood, we built a friendship on companionship and advice.
When I was six, Cate decided that I would look better without bangs. I happily agreed (Look at the picture above. It’s obvious that we made the right decision). Normally, I would have asked my mother for a haircut, but luckily for me, Cate had a pair of scissors. She cut and cut, until my bangs did not exist. She practically cut them at the root. Now gentlemen, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but if you don’t want to have bangs anymore, that’s not the most ideal way to go about it. The best part of the story is that my father, in all of his male thickness, did not notice my bizarre new look. However, when I saw my mother, she was… less understanding. She immediately demanded to know who had scalped me, and I quickly insisted that I had done it to myself. Unfortunately, I was about as transparent and sturdy as saran-a-wrap at the time, so my mother knew it was Cate. As a result, she instituted a rule that I was never allowed to let my friends cut my hair. Much to her displeasure, it is a rule I seldom follow.
The great thing about this story was that even years later, Cate still swore that my haircut looked great. There are no pictures to back up her claim, but Cate was never one to back down.
Besides my mother, Cate was the first person I let cut my hair. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Cate was a lot of my firsts. Cate made me ride my first roller coaster. I was terrified, but she insisted. Together, we rode up front, and I can still remember crushing her hand as I looked over the rail. Cate was the first person to tell me about the entrepreneurial benefits of collecting Beanie Babies. She had a collector’s book and at least a hundred of the carefully-chosen stuffed toys. I remember being so envious of her. She was so smart, and as she meticulously explained the importance of tag protectors, I remember thinking how I wanted to be like her, to have everything so figured out. Cate was the first person to tell me what boys and girls did behind closed doors. She told me all the gory details, all the mechanics behind something I had never thought of before. I didn’t believe her; I should have. Cate was the first person to be honest with me about anything I wanted to know, even herself.
When Cate was a teenager, she stole chapstick on purpose from a Walmart. I was too chicken. When Cate started smoking cigarettes, she surprisingly told me to stay chicken. “It’s not you, and I like that” she said. Cate made her life an open book for me, a road map advising me on every direction, every milestone, because Cate always got there first. She never judged my naive questions, and I looked to her for a long time.
She was my friend. Now she’s dead, and since Friday, I’ve given some thought to what that means. She will never call me again. I will never get a call about an engagement, a wedding, a baby, a dream job. She will never get to do any of those things. While this thought deeply upsets me, what I can’t wrap my mind around is the fact that, in all likelihood, I will be the first to do those things.
And at this point, I’m chicken.
I can’t be the first. Where is my road map? Who will unabashedly tell me the truth about things that are outside my understanding? Who will force my bubble, make me experience things I never would have otherwise? Without her, there would be no roller coasters.
Today I feel stunted and cheated in the white space that used to be my road map. I’ve been told that eventually I’ll feel better about this; that writing about her will make me feel better. It doesn’t. In fact, it’s worse. I wrote this entry earlier today and lost my internet connection when I hit ‘publish.’ When the page refreshed, everything was gone. I think I stared at the blank screen for twenty minutes. I got angry, I collected myself, and I started typing everything over. It’s worse the second time, it’s worse today.
But today I’m going to the Botanical Gardens in a dress Cate would have worn, and I’m going to sit on a bench and pretend that I can see the Beanie Babies that Cate swore escaped at night. She said that at night, her valued toys would take off their tag protectors and roam free in her backyard. I like to think that’s what happened.
So today, I’ll sit and remember what I loved most about Cate:
She was unbridled and adventurous.
She loved animals and, on an unrelated note, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
She would give anything to anyone who asked.
Her parents loved her more than any parent has ever loved their only child.
And I’m going to have to stop here. Sorry Cate the Great, you were a lot stronger than me, and you would know how to end a blog post about you.