But, see, I’ve been thinking the things I’m about to blog about for all those years that I’ve been trying to come up with a name. And every time I think them, I think…man, I wish I’d known that years ago when I really needed it. But I didn’t know how to look for it. And I fur sure wasn’t sitting in my pajamas for the nineteenth day in a row, eating my seven millionth piece of buttered toast and seventeen millionth vodka tonic for breakfast thinking about googling something like “The Girlfriend’s Widow” or “Goodbye Bosom Friend.” I wanted to know how in the hell you got up every day after you’d just lost your best friend. I wanted to type in “How am I going to survive this?” and have an answer come up that did not say things like “give yourself time to grieve” and “remember the good times.” (gag) I wanted honesty.
So, I’m going to give you honesty. This blog is about how I am surviving my best friend’s murder. And, hopefully, it will help someone else survive his or her friend’s murder or suicide or accident or illness or any kind of death.
In the spirit of honesty, I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m going to tell you what happened to Leslie. What happened to Leslie matters. I don’t think that everybody’s story is ever the same. I think we can still relate to each other, though. But I don’t think you will ever understand anything I ever say in this blog without knowing the basic facts. I mean, facts are what honesty is based on, right?
Maybe I should say some sort of disclaimer…like they do on This American Life. The following may be disturbing to some listeners. But I can assure you, they won’t be more disturbing to you than they are to me, and I am surviving writing this. In fact, writing this is part of surviving, so maybe reading will be, too.
Leslie was my best friend. She’d always been my friend…since I was eight years old, anyway…but she hadn’t always been my best friend. Life has a way of moving people around like a wave. Sometimes people are near and sometimes far, but always part of the same body. But I’ll talk more about that another day. Anyway, she was my best friend on April 29th, 2007. On that day, she and I were supposed to meet at the gym. Leslie was a day sleeper. A napper. And, true to form, she’d fallen asleep and missed our gym appointment. A few hours after we’d planned to meet, she called me from her cell phone. It was a hot, sunny day…very hot for April. She was driving…on her way to a local mall. I could hear the air conditioner humming in the phone. She asked me if I wanted to come shopping with her. I wasn’t really mad at her for missing the gym appointment, but I’d already gone and was continuing on with my plans. I’m not even close to as spontaneous as Leslie was. I never have been…never will be. Makes me feel a little uncomfortable to veer off course. Actually, after that day proved to me that staying with the plan can keep you alive, I’ve been even more rigid in my particularity. So, I declined her invitation. We chatted some more. She was supposed to have dinner that night with an old high school friend of ours. We talked about how she was married to a cute guy with a cute baby and we were knocking on death’s door at thirty-three and both alone and barren. She told me she was pulling in to the parking lot at the mall and couldn’t park and talk at the same time. I told her I loved her and she told me the same. We hung up. Three minutes later, a stranger shot her in the back of the head through her car window while her car was still running and her purse sat in her lap. And that was the end of Leslie’s life. She was thirty-three years, seven months, and twenty-one days old.
From the moment I knew that she was gone from the earth, I also knew that I would grieve her very differently from everyone else. And I mean that in two ways. I knew that I would grieve for Leslie very differently than I had grieved for my beloved grandmothers, both who had passed in their eighties. But I also knew that I would grieve for Leslie very differently than anyone else who loved Leslie would grieve for her. I already craved facts that were not available to me. Facts, facts, facts. Facts.
She was my best friend. I knew facts about her that no one else knew. I knew facts about her that her mother and her brothers and her sisters and her father wouldn’t even dream of knowing. I had questions they didn’t want to know the answers to. I had screams that no one could hear and could not begin to make the sounds that people were pretending were coming out of me.
And I could not get the facts I needed from anyone. Because I wasn’t Family. I was just family. You know what I mean.