Crack In the Sky
It’s hard to believe that Amanda has been gone for fifteen years.
I counted the years on my fingers and then I still had to text Haley–who is the keeper of important memories for our group of college friends–to double-check that I had counted correctly.
How is it possible that our grief is a teenager, wide-eyed and full of questions?
Amanda and I were both middle children, both Geminis. We both grew up in towns “right outside of New York City” and we both chose the same small college in Ohio. We both loved our little group of college friends fiercely.
Amanda was an artist and I’m a writer, but we were both the kind of people who clung to details that other people ignore. She always could make me laugh.
Her birthday was June 9th, just one day before mine, and so I never turn a year older without the weight of knowing that she will not. We were only 23 when she had her accident.
One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is that grief is not something we do for someone or something. Grief is a desert island that we all wash up on, sometime. Some
of us stay longer, or find ourselves there more often. But we’ll all end up there eventually.
When I say I think of her everyday, I mean it.
I am working on a longer piece about Amanda, but it's not ready to share yet. Here's a short excerpt from it.
Crack in the Sky
The year after we graduated college, I moved to Brooklyn with three of my closest college friends. Amanda went to London to do a master’s program in art. Whenever she came back to visit her family in New Jersey, she'd come and stay with us.
My roommates and I threw a party for New Years Eve, and Amanda came. We texted everyone we knew, and told them to bring friends. We served no food, and asked people to bring their own drinks.We offered nothing but our 800-square foot, fourth floor apartment, and access to the roof that our landlord had said we were not to go up on–under any circumstances.
Everyone came, of course. People showed up with magnums of red wine, oversized beers in brown paper bags. A few people hauled coolers up the four flights of stairs. No one brought food.
When the fireworks started, all of us streamed out onto the roof, plastic cups and strong drinks in our hands. The New York City skyline was ablaze with color, and we were all so, so young that it didn’t occur to us, yet, how truly lucky we were.
After the fireworks, the party continued. We played beer pong on a makeshift table and everyone who liked to dance, danced, and the rest of us tapped our feet.
David Bowie came on and we all sang along:
A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me
All the nightmares came today
And it looks as though they're here to stay….
Oh! You pretty things!
None of us considered the neighbors.
Eventually, those who lived close enough found their way home and everyone else stayed the night. People slept on couches, in the hallway. When I went to pee in the morning, I saw one black heeled boot dangling over the side of our claw-footed tub.
Others never slept at all. They layered on sweatshirts and jackets and wool hats and gloves and stayed up all night on the roof. They talked and laughed and waited to watch the sun rise on a brand new year. A new beginning.
This was Amanda. She was never one to sleep when there were more interesting things to do. She wore her green wool coat, a printed scarf tied back in her curly hair. She stayed on the roof until morning, even after the sun came up and most of the others had gone back inside. And then she climbed into the elevator shaft and waited.
She understood the importance of timing, the patience it takes to get things just right.
At some point, those of us who had bothered to sleep woke up and we all piled into the elevator, on a mission to find bagels to numb out hangovers. As soon as the doors slid closed behind us, a voice boomed through the elevator.
“Hello down there! This is God!” We all looked at each other, confused. Our brains were moving slowly.
“We need to talk about last night…”
The elevator dropped down and her laugh reverberated down the long empty shaft.We knew, of course, that it wasn’t God.
Or did we?
I’d be lying if I said a part of us didn’t think that there was something God wanted to tell us– something we needed to hear.