It’s been a year.
It’s been a year since Jodie’s death. I don’t know how else to start this. It seems so blunt to put it that way, but it’s the truth. Today is the one year anniversary of the day our friend was suddenly taken away from us.
I wanted to write this blog post, because the blog post I wrote about her passing last year got such a huge reaction. I was very surprised, because I never meant for it to become such a big thing. I wrote it for her friends and family (and myself), and I thought it would probably get a few dozen views. Instead, the blog post took on a life of its own. Since I posted it last year, it has accumulated over 1300 views. That’s more than all the views of my other blog posts combined. My second most viewed blog post about theatre etiquette has just a little over 100 views, to put this into perspective for you.
The crazy thing is that many of these views came from overseas. People from Spain, Australia, America, and many other countries have read the blog post that I wrote for her. The only way I can explain it is that we all know how it feels to suddenly lose someone, in whatever way. And this pain unites us, regardless of who we are.
During the weeks leading up to this day, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would spend it. I felt that I wanted to commemorate her life somehow. I also didn’t want to be alone. I haven’t visited her grave since the funeral, because I don’t think I could bear to do it alone. I tried to go there earlier this year when I was in the area, but my GPS, the same one that took me there on that day, suddenly said that the location didn’t exist. I was very upset at first, but I later realised that it was some form of divine intervention. I wouldn’t be able to go there alone. At least not yet.
Initially I thought that I would meet up with some friends and that we would do something together. A few days after the funeral last year, we got together and released some pink balloons at the college. Each of us wore a pink ribbon and we scattered glitter on the pavement. It was a good way to somehow be united that way and to deal with the grief. I hoped that we could do it again, but things have changed a lot since then. Ever since my huge friendship breakup a few months ago, a lot of the friends in that circle have started to avoid me. I didn’t want to cause unnecessary drama by showing up somewhere uninvited, and since it seemed that I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, I decided to stay home and go out during the day. YouTube sensation, Suzelle, had her book launch at a theatre near me and I thought that I would attend it. I even went to bed somewhat early (before midnight), so that I could get up and go to the launch at 10h00.
And then I suddenly woke up at 3h00. I was wide awake. I ended up watching a few videos and listening to music before I slipped back into sleep around 5h00. I know that I set the alarm for about 8h30, and I vaguely remember it waking me, but when I woke up later it was 10h02.
I guess that’s not happening, I thought. I checked the movie times to see when Sicario, the new Emily Blunt film, would be showing. The timetable said 12h00, but somehow I fell asleep again and woke up just after twelve. The next viewing is at 14h45, I thought. If I get up at 13h30 I can take my time to get ready and drive there. As I thought this, a very strong part of me just wanted to keep sleeping. I had this overwhelming tiredness and I just wanted to sleep for the rest of the day. But when the alarm went off at 13h30, I got up. I forced myself. I told myself that I had to do something, go somewhere. Try to feel something. I got into my car and drove to the mall. Almost every song that played somehow reminded me of Jodie. I thought of how, a year ago, I had just gotten my license and was terrified of driving. Now I sometimes find myself looking for an excuse to drive. I feel like wandering around the city streets somehow cleanses my head.
When I got the mall and walked in, I wondered if I remembered to put some sedatives in my bag. The mall would be busy and I have a tendency of having panic attacks in large crowds. But somehow I didn’t… feel anything. I wove through the crowd like a ghost, not looking at anyone, not caring about what I looked like. Just walking. I got to the cinema and watched the movie. When it was done I came out. It was just past 17h00. The shops in the mall had started to close down. I somehow felt like I was walking through a haunted building. There wasn’t any loud music playing, only a few faint tunes coming from the shops that were still open or busy closing. There were still a few people, but they didn’t really talk. I could hear their footsteps on the tiles. Each person was in his or her little world. I walked past the restaurant section of the mall. A father and son were having dinner. Waiters were serving customers. A gay couple was having a conversation over wine and smiling at each other. As I walked past these people I thought, what would they say if I told them that my friend had died a year ago? What would they do? All these people were living their lives, carrying their own pain, and still she was gone and nothing that I could do or say would ever change that. I bought a novel that I couldn’t afford and some hot chocolate, and drove home.
When I got home I decided that I would go for a walk before the dark would set in. I got my earphones and walked out the gate. As I walked out, I stopped. I realised that I would pass the spot where I had scattered pink glitter on the day of Jo’s funeral. I had meant to buy glitter, but the shops were all closed. I stood for a moment and thought. Then I looked at the decorative stones packed around the bush next to the gate. It is a Jewish custom to put stones at a grave in form of remembrance. I walked closer and one specific stone caught my eye. It was slightly pink and stood out from the other, brown stones. I knew that it was the right one. I picked it up and started walking. I was playing music through my cell phone’s earphones. As I got closer, ‘Defying Gravity’ started playing. I found it quite fitting. As I turned the corner, the battery went flat and the music stopped. Suddenly all I could hear was the wind blowing through the trees. Jacaranda trees were losing their flowers and I could hear the sound of the flowers gently falling on the tar. When I got the Shalom sign I laid the stone down. Suddenly I felt a stab of sorrow go through my chest. It was the closest I came to crying all day. I’ve been crying a lot since Jo passed, then my cat Pikgittina, and most recently my grandmother. But as I stood there I had no tears. Just a deep, hollow pain. I started walking away. I turned around to look at the stone again. It lay on the wall, alone and soon to be covered by shadows. I turned around and walked away. I thought of Elaine, the lady who can’t remember my name. I haven’t seen her in aprobably a year’s time. She probably doesn’t live here anymore. I don’t even know if she is alive anymore.
I spent the day alone after all. I thought it would be different. I thought that something would happen. I would see someone. We would laugh and cry. We would talk about the past and the future. We would do something, I don’t know what. I don’t know what I expected. But instead I was alone. And it didn’t really bother me. I wasn’t meant to be in a pack. I’m a lone wolf that travels alone through life. I have friends and family that mean a lot to me, but most of the time I am alone. And that’s fine.
On the day we released the balloons, I took the pink ribbon around my wrist and put it around the neck of the stuffed penguin hanging in my car. Every time I got into my car I would think of Jodie. After a few months it began to bother me. I felt as though I wasn’t allowing myself to move on. One day as I was driving, I felt something brush against my cheek. The ribbon had gotten loose and blown off the penguin. I later took it and put it in the glove compartment. Every now and then when I stick my hand in to look for something among the bunch of things I stuffed in there, I come across the ribbon. It immediately reminds me of Jodie. And then I feel that same, hollow pain in my chest.