March 30, 2009

Trisha Taught Me To

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:56 pm by jlp412

I go to the gym with new diligence. I take more pictures. When I see the bus whiz by, I no longer throw my hands to the wind and blasphemize the DC public transportation system (or at least not with quite as much gusto). I don’t look at my watch as often. I order a milkshake even though my stomach tells me I shouldn’t. I watch less television.

Trisha taught me to.

This blog is the anchor that grounds my days now, even though the words that wind up here aren’t pre-formed. I may run a half-marathon in Trisha’s honor in September and I am certainly NOT a runner. I have shared parts of my most vulnerable self with people who I wouldn’t otherwise have talked to – possibly ever again – and I have also seen them bleeding and raw and reeling. I have placed parts of them inside of myself to carry me through these strange days.

Trisha taught me to.

I now pulsate with a passion that is so intense it sometimes makes my fingertips shake. I peel back the layers of my relationships until I reach the marrow that forms them – no longer am I content to scratch just the skin. I say “I love you” more often, and I mean it. I notice when I breathe and when I blink and when I swallow, and I give thanks.

Trisha taught me to.

Of course, she’s also given me a gift I’d like to return – a sorrow so deep and so perplexing that it hangs over my head like a cloud – it’s there when I fill a prescription, when I clasp a necklace, when I eat a cupcake. I ache for her even as I commemorate her. I see her in her sister’s smile, in a purse a colleague brought back to me from Ghana last year, in a jar of curry paste at Trader Joe’s. I never knew I was capable of a wound so gaping and so constant, and I wish I could revert back to the life I had before it took hold of me.

But without the pain of her loss, there wouldn’t be the surprising moments of joy in things that used to seem trivial – the taste of a frozen banana covered in chocolate, the sight of a rosy-cheeked baby squirming in her snuggie, the aroma of cherry blossoms damp from rain.

Trisha taught me to love these things. Trisha will push me to train for a half marathon even though there is not an athletic fiber in my body. Trisha will guide me toward my purpose. She will strengthen my friendships and she will teach me the truth I learn more and more every day – that these friendships can straddle the country just as easily as they can the line between life and death.

I will try to fill the holes in myself and in others even though I don’t always have the right words to write. But I will try.

Trisha taught me to.

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March 29, 2009

Trapped in Time

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:55 pm by jlp412

Photographs are funny.

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In this digital age of instant-capture, we chronicle every candid moment as each one occurs: we post and comment and edit and share almost before they have ended. My iPhoto library is filled with such snapshots – off-center, unfocused, its subjects laughing at each other rather than posing for the camera. Moments frozen forever on film. I don’t think I missed chronicling a single millisecond of college on my camera, and I am so glad now that I did.

I’ve been pouring over pictures the last couple of days, seeping them in as if Trisha’s bright eyes and goofy grin beaming back at me, so very much alive, will somehow catapult her out of the film and back into the world again: Trisha laughing over my shoulder at our favorite Thai restaurant in Evanston; Trisha decked out in purple and black at an NU football game; Trisha on the dancefloor and Trisha standing with me in front of the Capitol; Trisha’s cheek pressed up against mine as we grip each other’s shoulders and smile at the flash of light that keeps us there, alive, content, together, in that moment of time.

Photographs are funny.

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My heart burns as I view them now. While Trisha is trapped in time, never again to appear in another photo with me or with anyone else, cameras will still flash in the future to capture all of us together, in each other’s weddings, on our reunion trips to hopefully exotic locations, visiting each other in our respective cities. And Trisha won’t be in any of them.

In this digital age of instant viewing, we are tempted to crop, enhance, edit and delete so that the moments we see are more polished, more flattering, more pleasant images of how we’d like to see ourselves.

But then they wouldn’t be true photographs, freeze-framed portraits of us just the way we were, imperfect and all.

I want to jump back into these moments in film and laugh harder, dance longer, hug her closer. I want to relive the times we spent with her when we had her as ours. I want to smile and laugh as I remember and not be panged with the pain of her loss, haunted with the knowledge that as I flip to the last photo of us together, there won’t ever be any more pictures of the one I kissed sloppily on the cheek, sang Journey with on the dance floor, stormed the football field with after a rare NU victory.

I want to pour stories about her out of my mouth and into the ears of strangers, I want everyone I see and know to understand who she was and why she matters.

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I am not content to look only at photos of her and marvel at the reach of her impact.

It’s not enough.

I want her back. I want to freeze more moments. I want to take more pictures, tell more stories, build more memories.

Trisha is trapped in time as we move on without her.

I suppose I am grateful that she can be trapped there, forever in photos and emails and in stories we tell and retell to each other and to strangers. I just wish I could be trapped there with her, her head on my shoulder, our arms locked tightly together, her voice and her laugh forcing me into the calm she always helped me find, with nowhere to be but with each other.

Trisha is trapped in time as we move on without her.

We’ll keep her tucked tightly in our hearts and we’ll keep her name flowing from our lips. We’ll smile because of what she gave us and we’ll cry because of what was taken from us.

Trisha is trapped in time and we’ll move on without her. We will move on without her. She would want us to. And so we will. Slowly. We will.

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March 27, 2009

Today, I See Color

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:15 am by jlp412

Today, an evolution. It’s as if I’ve picked up a kaleidoscope, given it a good shake, and now hold it with a steady hand against my eye to view the world anew. Colors appear that weren’t there before – violent reds and richer purples and deeper blues – jagged stained glass edges crack through my perspective, tinting the usual greytones of familiar people and places with a vibrancy that is almost blinding.

I want at once to cling to those I care for with such might that they are drawn toward me with magnetic force; I want to smother them with touches from my palms, my fingertips; I want my words of gratitude to tumble out and over them like a fountain until they are soaked clean through.

And with equal force I want to also rid myself of anything that is still monochromatic in my life – a task that seems suddenly futile, a relationship that has lost its meaning, an unwelcomed feeling of bitterness or resentment. None of these things add the splashes of color into my life that Trisha did, and I have no need for them now. 

It’s been just over one week that Trisha’s been gone. It’s strange to think that her sudden departure has given me something; that she has reconnected me and newly connected me to the people I love, that she has instilled in me a quiet fire that will fuel each task that fills the days ahead; that she has tied a taut string from my heart to my hand and is guiding these words to flow freely from me.

I had dinner last night with three friends I hadn’t seen since the funeral. I shook the kaleidoscope and they were awash in pinks and yellows I hadn’t seen in them before. We were able to stare at each other in silence when her death smacked us by surprise again. We were able to laugh as we walked each other through memories of Trisha long forgotten. We were able to be. 

This past week held days that were whitewashed and days that were blackened. There were moments when I sensed the color starting to seep back in and had to close my eyes because I wasn’t ready for it. I don’t think these days are over.

But today, I see color.

And that gives me hope.

March 26, 2009

To Stand, to Stay

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:23 am by jlp412

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Late last night, I ripped off the bandaid and shared this blog with those who I hold in my heart – even if I hadn’t seen or spoken to them in some time. It took me a good half hour to hit send on the link – it felt like I was standing in Times Square with a trench coat on and nothing underneath, and I could have either covered up and darted off around a corner unrecognized or stand there exposed and strip off the coat for all to see, flaws and all (this is not a fantasy of mine). I chose to stand, to stay – a choice I may later regret, but for now, feels right.

As I result, I’ve heard from past college professors, high school mentors, former colleagues, friends of friends, mothers of friends, boyfriends of friends. I’ve been moved to tears by responses of distant relatives, near strangers, who before they saw my heart bleed through the words written here, couldn’t have told you what I looked like or where I lived. Perhaps they still can’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Trisha’s name was threaded though all of their emails, as if familiar. They shared their own stories of loss – Heather, Danny, Ross – sisters, uncles, friends, who have also left the living. Trisha brought them back to the surface.

As I read these words linking me to people I have never met, people who touched those I love and whose losses left those I love less whole, as Trisha’s does to so many of us who knew her, I was struck with the as-if sudden realization that death leaves these gaping holes in people’s lives all the time, every day. People are taken from us too soon, every. single. day. I don’t know if it’s a comfort that we find little ways to stop up the holes we’re left with or if it’s infuriating that we don’t get swallowed up by them entirely as retribution for surviving.

There is no “right” way to stop up the hole Trisha left. I’ve been told I should laugh because Trisha would want me to. I know I should cry because I need to let my emotions rule me for a few more days when it is still an acceptable part of the grieving process. What happens next month, next year, in ten years, when her death digs another wound in my gut and the pain hits me as if freshly felt? What then?

Maybe I can stop up the hole Trisha left with Thai food and falafel. That will hold it for a while. Or maybe I can at least shrink it down in size with a funny TV show or a long bike ride along the Potomac. Maybe I can try to gather up those who mean something to me and crowd them on top of each other until they can fill up the hole Trisha left. I’ll take an improv class. I’ll stave off sleep. I’ll drink wine. I’ll walk instead of bus so I don’t get where I’m going too soon. I’ll write this blog.

These are all temporary fixes.

Today, I learned the only way to fill up the hole Trisha left is to take a needle and hold the flaps of my skin close together and use the nimble hands of those Trisha touched to sew the hole shut. And the only thread strong enough to keep from unraveling is my memory of her, a memory so vivid, so strong, that it will carry me through those moments I can’t yet anticipate when I’ll want to rip the thread right out.

I’ll sew up the hole Trisha left by using her memory to thrust me, though battle-scarred, toward the next day, and the one after that, into the life I’ll live without her and yet because of her.

I’ll stand. I’ll stay. That’s what I’ll do.

March 24, 2009

Today, I Did

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:47 pm by jlp412

Today, I ate a bowl of cereal – cinnamon Puffins mixed with mini wheat squares from Trader Joe’s. I made a pot of my roommate’s French Vanilla coffee, not too strong, with a splash of fat free Coffeemate liquid creamer, just the way I like it. I walked over the Key Bridge from Virginia to my office in Georgetown. I went to work.

Since I found out about Trisha’s death, I haven’t resumed any of the usual routines that keep my life in its orbit.

Today, I did.

Before today, I accepted the reality of my day-to-day activities and rarely questioned the “why’s” behind them – the benefits of a relationship, the significance of a work deadline, the need to eat a meal.

Today, I questioned the “why’s.”

Before today, when I looked at my watch, always a constant on my left hand, I didn’t think about the time beyond the minute of my next meeting. I didn’t scrutinize the tiny black sticks as they ticked away, propelling me one more minute forward into a world Trisha can no longer see.

Today, minutes mattered more.

Before today, my thoughts were content to dwell in my head. On occasion they escaped to my journal, but they were judged there only by me, in all of their imperfectness and hesitant scribbles, not to be shared.

Today, I realized that even these nonsensical ramblings can bring meaning to others. Today, I shared my thoughts.

Today is different and yet the same.

Today, Trisha is gone. I went to work. Trisha is gone. I ate a sandwich. Trisha is gone. I took a shower.

Trisha is gone.

Today, underneath my routines and activities rested an undercurrent of longing, flash images of her face, her smile, her casket. A receipt I was processing for a parking expense had “drive safely” printed nonchalantly on the bottom underneath the total. I burst into tears at my desk.

Today is different and yet the same.

Before today, I hadn’t fully confronted mortality.

Today, I did.

March 23, 2009

So I Write

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:59 pm by jlp412

I started this blog because I had to shake my thoughts of Trisha out of their jumbled nest in my head and drop them gently into written words. I thought that, perhaps, in doing this, they would stop holding me hostage and instead twist some sense into what my body, my mind, my heart cannot. I don’t know that these posts are yet serving that purpose, and I do not know what this blog will become, or whether these entries are just a selfish spewing of words onto a blank slate for my own resolution.

But I have to think it’s helping. I have to think that soon, each time I close my eyes to sleep, I won’t see her once beautiful face in its last unfamiliar viewing – bruised and lifeless in her open casket, with pink and yellow flowers sprinkled by the hands of her friends and family across her legs. How long will it be until I forget what her voice sounds like? Or hear the sound of her short hum of a laugh? Or remember the touch of her hair, wavy, black, thick, in my hand?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that writing has always brought me comfort in a way that nothing else, no one else, can.

So I write.

March 21, 2009

Missing Trisha

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:07 pm by jlp412

Trisha Apte, my friend, my sister, the carefree spirit to my own tightly-wound psyche, died two days ago. She is gone. She is not coming back. She was killed in a car accident, the cause unknown. She is dead. She was 23 years old.

When I last saw her a couple of weeks ago, she was about to embark on a journey of a lifetime, a tour around the world to visit family and friends and to work on the maternal and children’s health issues she cared so much about, before a yearlong study in Ghana to earn her public health degree. She talked of blogging of her travels. We suggested campy names like “Trisha’s Travels,” or “Tales by Trisha.” She laughed.

We said goodbye, hurriedly, over coffee. We both had other places to be. I should have paid for her drink. What did she order? I can’t remember now. I should have hugged her harder. I should have told her, never have I known someone to live as freely and as openly as you. Never have I seen you without a smile. Never would I have imagined our too-short hug outside of Starbucks would be the last time I would ever touch her.

So today, I started a blog.

Today, as I read the Facebook status updates of those in mourning and disbelief, as I see her eerie Twitter post declaring the 15 hour drive ahead of her that she would never finish, as I scan photos taken and posted online the day before her death, my fingers sit perched on my keyboard, itching to type, yearning to respond, unable to move. The Internet Era of this century – the constant need to update second by second with the present state of mind – confuses death, leaves it hanging, suspended in cyberspace on the profiles and posts of the one who is no longer in the present.

Trisha’s boyfriend posted a heartbreaking unrequited love letter in memoriam to her Facebook wall. She emailed me back two days before she died to declare with regret that she will not make it to our Alpha Phi reunion this spring – but she will be thinking of us during her travels. Her Facebook photo smiles back at me hauntingly. Her phone number and her recent text messages are trapped in my phone, freshly written and recently dialed. I cannot clear them out.

So I started a blog.

I want to honor her. I want to capture this feeling, this heart-racing, stomach-churning, fury-fear. This draining sadness is like an IV that slowly drips more in, a little at a time, until you’re so full of sadness you can’t quite take in anything else. And just when you think one bag has been emptied, you see another just waiting to replace it, ready to seep under your skin and into your insides and fill all of your body cavities with its unpredictable waves of anger, injustice, pain, torment, longing for her. And you surrender.

My mother sent me this prayer, from On The Doorpost of Your House: Prayers and Ceremonies for the Jewish Home:

“Death has separated us. You are no longer at my side to share the beauty of the passing moment. I cannot look to you to lighten my burdens, to lend me your strength, your counsel, your faith. And yet, what you mean to me neither withers nor fades. For a time we touched hands and hearts; still your voice abides within me, still your tender glance remains a joy to me. For you are part of me for ever; something of you has become a deathless song upon my lips. And so beyond the ache that tells how much I miss you, a deeper thought compels; we were together. I hold you still in mind, and give thanks for life and love. The happiness that was, the memories that do not fade, are a gift that cannot be lost. You continue to bless my days and years. I will always give thanks for you.”

I miss you, Trisha.

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