I looked at it again..."in memory."
I looked at the picture.
I looked at the name again.
I felt like I was in slow motion, mind drugged, body shaking.
I read those words again, "In Memory." I...couldn't believe it. This student had come to my window so many times over the last couple of years. I wait on a lot of students, but there are a handful who I really click with, and she was one of them. Our conversations were always 5-10 minutes long, which is a lot when you're running off to class. She was smart as a whip with one of the most wicked, witty, cynical, rapid-fire sense of humors you've ever heard. Her comebacks were like a ping pong game on speed, and she would have me roaring in laughter. I told her all the time that she needed to forget college and go be a comedian. I had even printed out information on the adult immersion summer course at Second City for her--I wish she could have went. You know, if you're really funny, you're really smart. And she was.
She was often changing her schedule, and after the last semester, her major. She used to joke that "just because I'm Asian doesn't mean I'm good at math." She was adopted from Korea as a child, and we talked about that dynamic as well.
She was a firecracker. One day she came in with a stocking cap covering her bald head. She told me that someone--I will purposely be vague here--had told her the only thing beautiful/pretty about her was her hair, so out of spite, she shaved her head. What a rebel. I don't even know if the story was true or not, but I believed her.
I remember thinking at the beginning of the semester that I hadn't seen her much. And then one day she was at my counter. I don't even remember what we said. It was a strange exchange. Enough so that it registered in my brain that something didn't seem right. She was quiet, she barely looked up, and she seemed...distracted. She seemed in a hurry--I thought maybe she was late for class--and I got the distinct feeling that she didn't want to talk. I've since learned (again, I'll be vague), that she wrapped up details at the college. That was Wednesday before Valentine's Day and by Friday she was gone.
I asked everyone, do you know what happened, did anyone have a clue? Someone mentioned she had a lot of things going on, but didn't elaborate. I want to know. Not out of morbid curiosity, but so I can understand; and also because I want to hold onto all pieces of her, as if knowing more about her will solidify her in my mind, help bring her back; but, of course that can never be. I was lying in bed last night, thinking of that last exchange. It seems ghost-like now. Not scary, but ephemeral, hazy...like she was already going.
I have been there, had that feeling that it makes no difference if you're around, that you feel like you have no hope or way out. Anytime I hear someone spout those ridiculous words that "suicide is the ultimate selfish act" I want to scream. When someone is in that much pain--so much pain that they will end their own life--they're not being selfish; they're being tortured internally in the most brutal of ways. So people, you stop being so selfish when you say something like that.
Emily, I think of all the mean-spirited, crass people still walking around this day and then I think of your love of animals, personality, intelligence, and humor gone from this earth. I miss you; I wish I could have known what was wrong and helped you; and I will never forget you. Your beautiful spirit mattered in this world.