someone from my high school died.
S relayed this information yesterday. in the form of a text that read: "do you remember this person? they have died."
we've spent the day since trying to remember.
i looked on facebook and have no clue.
S forwarded the obituary and we are still at a loss.
S has observed that this person looks like someone who hung out with sporty people (BREAKING NEWS: we did not hang out with sporty people) and who was probably in the other english class.
when i run into WRB on campus and confess to our assholery, he says, that sounds very high school. and he is not wrong.
the fact that we cannot remember this person seems to have shaken S deeply.
because we are 38.
because we are single.
because we are lonely.
maybe most crucially, because there are people from our high school who, surely, do not remember us. (our reunion has provided solid evidentiary support for this interpretation, though the number of times i was mistaken for S's non-alum wife would suggest i am at greater risk of being forgotten than him.)
because it is highly likely we will die without having touched all of humanity with our awesomeness.
because, when we die, there are people who will not have known us and they, as a result, will not care.
i wonder if he's forgotten how, when we were in high school, there was a horrible car crash involving two girls we knew. or maybe he didn't know them. i did.
one of the girls died. the other survived.
and then, about a week later (well, it felt like a week, it could have very well been a few days, but either way it was an entirely unreasonable amount of time for them to have made this mistake, they realized that the girl they thought was alive had actually died and the girl they thought had died was actually alive.
and so it went from being that someone from the other choir class who i didn't know had died to someone i'd talked to most every morning before school in the 10th grade had died.
we were seniors...? or was this 11th grade? either way, we'd drifted apart. i'd not spoken to her in awhile. but this was someone who was there when another friend came in and broke the news that ginger spice had left the spice girls. it was someone i did know, even though i no longer really knew her when she died.
it was a weird few weeks. was there a memorial? i don't remember. did i tell my parents? i don't think so. everyone knew this thing had happened, but i don't think i mentioned that i knew the girl.
i think it was autumn. i remember the girl who survived-- both of them were named tiffany? (i maybe had not even known the name of the girl i knew?)-- participated in the christmas caroling we did at a holiday bazar that year. but i don't remember there being an announcement or an assembly about any of this.
all i remember is the rumors in the hallway and how weird it was to hear our school being reported about on national TV. and debo saying how horrible that week must have been for those parents, thinking their child was alive when it was actually someone else's.
the takeaway for me then was, apparently, that we are all, to some extent, interchangeable. one of us could be gone just as easily as it could be another.
this is perhaps what S is wrestling with... the whole it was them this time, but it could just as easily be me thing.
i write biography so i fancy i already know this. i've written a whole life in a year, so i know it goes fast and it is fragile. i know knowing this is different from knowing this, but still i have academic credentials in death, so i flatter myself this is some work i've already done. (even as i know, just in writing that, i'm being cockily naive.)
S worries that he will die alone and there will be no one to collect his wares.
i text back, honey, as long as i am alive, rest assured i will collect your wares.
i wonder if this is actually consoling. it perhaps makes me sound more like a traveling vendor than a friend, but there we have it.
it's hard, when we are feeling lonely, to remember that we are not alone. that we are remarkable. that we are loved.
that, for every single one of us, there is this whole constellation of people rooting for us, loving us. people who will show up for us and, as long as they live, will never forget us.
is it everyone in the world? no. but it's multitudes. and it's probably more than we imagine.