02/16/14 - Twelve Days After.
So, here’s the truth of it all.
Three years ago, on Christmas eve, I woke up to a call from one of my best friends at the time – one I was decidedly mad at for petty reasons I can’t recall – wherein she choked out my name, a sob, and, “Raeni’s dead.” Raeni, for all she is or isn’t, was a dear friend to me. The outcome of her life and death – or the lack thereof – left a bitterness in me that I’ve never quite shaken. This isn’t about her, though. This is about that phone call. I remember the way I shot up straight, blinked at the wall, threw myself out of bed and straight into a shower, like I could wash the streaming mantra of “Raeni’s dead,” off of me, scrub it out of my skin if I tried hard enough. I never could. That pain was stubbornly residual, horridly cold. I hoped with all I had to never get that phone call again. Realistically, it would happen again in my life. With age and time, it happens. I just never expected it so soon.
On Tuesday, February 4th, I received a phone call around 8:30 at night from Brittney. I don’t know what I was expecting. The call came from her cell phone, and she was meant to be at work. I answered playfully, a drawn out “Hello,” and then I heard it: the silent pause, my name, a sob, and, “I have bad news. Ramsey’s passed.” My hands started shaking, my throat felt tight, my heart started pounding. I don’t know why, but the first words out of my mouth were, “Are you fucking with me?” She wasn’t. She was on her way to the family’s house, had closed the shop early and had her brother pick her and our friend Zoie up. She said she’d call me when she knew more. Just after we hung up, I didn’t feel anything. I felt like a fucking monster because I’ve been told one of my best friends is dead and I’m just staring at the paneling on my wall like it holds the fucking answer. I’d later understand that it was shock.
I would spend the next fourty-five minutes scouring the internet, searching for anything that would tell me it wasn’t true. Then, just as I’m about to lose it, The Creole (and Ascension Parish online newspaper) posted a report of car accident that took the life of a Sorrento woman. I remember pausing, clicking, saying, “No, please. No. No. No. Not Ramsey. Please. Fuck. Not her. Not Ramsey. Please.” Without even reading it, the end of the first bit caught my eye, “Ramsey A. O’Gwynn.” I slammed my laptop shut and threw it across my bed. I screamed. I screamed and hit my pillows and cried and ripped at blankets like I could tear them apart. My stomach and throat were tied in knots. I ran to my parent’s room, where my mom had the same article pulled up on her iPad, and I cried and absolutely fell apart – so embarrassingly so that I had to go back to my own room after a while. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I was slowly choking on my own grief. I hadn’t known she’d been gone for more than twenty minutes, but I already missed her like a fucking limb.
I don’t think a lot of people realized just how close we were. We weren’t the closest – not at all. I just don’t think a lot of people understand the dynamic we had. She knew everything about me. There are things she swore to take to her grave and God dammit if she did. I told her once, jokingly – but not, that she was the older sister I never wanted. She was. We were spontaneous. We were the three-minute warning before a pick-up. We were the “I’m in your driveway, let’s go.” We were 2 am breakdowns and safety.
I’m an incredibly anxiety-ridden person and I have a plethora of problems to boot, and she met me at a very weird time in my life. She knew my biggest fears, regrets, struggles, and dreams. I would have these little breakdowns, where I would just lose it, and she would just say “Come over. Come stay with me for a while. You can always come over.” I remember, specifically, April of last year. I had this massive breakdown where I felt lost, hopeless, helpless, alone, and tired. I texted her and she said, “I have a daybed and an extra room. Come stay with me.” I didn’t, but I visited and stayed over often. Throughout it, she centered me. “You’re okay. I’ve got you.” She did.
I keep listening to “Hear You Me” over and over because I just can’t stop thinking about it. I haven’t listened to too much else. Whether it be a total meltdown or just wanting to get away, she gave me, and other friends, a place to go. She was safety, and she was there. She got us.
I never said “thank you” for that. I thought I might get one more chance.
Tonight, I just keep reflecting on all of the long-term plans we made. The tattoos we’d get, the places we’d go, and the things we’d do. I remember, specifically, riding down Burnside one afternoon and talking about your wedding and your future. How you wouldn’t be able to work at the plant anymore because you wanted more kids, how you’d get a butterfly for each one, how you wanted to go to a big city again one day, just to visit. I wish more than anything that you could have done just one of those. I remember when Sadie called me “Uncle Ally” and you laughed and laughed and laughed. I remember you complaining about work one night, because you couldn’t get a babysitter and you told me, “I’m not going to leave her with just anyone. My mom, you, and Brittney are the only ones I trust with my child.” That was just before her third birthday, one I bitterly regret missing because of work, too. Those words meant a lot, though. I’m glad I got to hear you say them.
I remember staying on a three-way call with you and Brittney for hours. I don’t remember what we talked about, not a single thing. I do remember you saying, “What are we even doing?!” though. I remember laughing. I’m glad I can remember that.
I’m so glad I spent New Year’s Eve at your house. I felt so at peace that night. I felt like the demons I’d been fighting and the war I’d be waging might finally be waning and that I could start all over. For the first time in three years, I could feel happiness. I could feel happiness that didn’t feel tainted by a dreading sense of “when?” The lingering question that would loom above my head in cloudy hues of stormy gray – when would the indifference return? When would the numbness hit? When would that sinking feeling take me once more? I felt so alive that night. I felt ready to let go. I felt like 2014 would be the year, and for what I didn’t know. I certainly never expected this.
We had a little fallout over the summer. I felt expendable when, to me, you were not. I’m glad we cleared that up. I’m glad we made amends. I’m sorry it took me so long to stop being hurt about it.
I’m glad we stayed up whispering, talking shit, and laughing the last time I saw you. I’m glad we were still making plans. I’m glad you were happy. I’m glad I hugged you. I’m glad I told you your hair smelled good. I’m glad you laughed. I’m glad I told you, “I’m sure I’ll see you later.” I will.
I love you, Ramsey. I’m so sorry that I never said that enough. I know you knew, but you could never know just how much I love and appreciate your friendship. There have been days, over the past couple of weeks, when I would reach for my phone to call you when I felt like pulling my hair out, and I’d have to stop myself and remind myself that you wouldn’t be on the other line.
Sitting at your funeral, there was still a part of me that expected you to walk through the doors and ask why everyone was so sad.
I know, for my own sanity, that I need to go through the motions of grievance, but a selfish part of me wants to hold on to this impossible hope that the next time my phone rings, it will be you, and you’ll tell me that everything’s alright, that you’re okay, that you got me. Yet, every time my phone buzzes, my heart sinks just that little bit more.
I feel like I could explode with how much I feel. You left us on a Tuesday, and the thunder understood.
May angels lead you in.
I miss you. I love you.
I’ll see you later. x