I am extremely independent. I’ve been supporting myself for eleven years. I am officially a grown-up. I do my chores, pay my bills, go to bed at a reasonable hour (usually), and make sure my tires are rotated and balanced. See? GROWN UP. Which makes a certain issue in my life a big mystery or, at least, surprising. This independent, grown up girl is entirely incapable of choosing my own clothes for a date.
It’s ridiculous, y’all. I know exactly why this happens. See, I have this neurological issue. Whenever the potential for making out exists, my brain breaks. Like, totally and completely shuts down. This is a big reason why I like living with a roommate. The right roommate will embrace my affliction. The right roommate will encourage me to put on a fashion show of every possible date outfit I own. The right roommate would never let me walk out of the house looking busted. Yale has been awesome in this respect. Kim was fantastic as well.
Last January, I had my second date with the Welder. Of course, sartorial panic ensued. Kim was resting in her bed, fresh off a ten-hour day at the bakery. All she wanted to do was watch cheesy movies in peace. But my beautiful, patient, loving roommate paused her movie about 67 times as I ran in and out of her room in various states of undress. She offered tips — “More cleavage. Less cleavage. Higher heels. Those jeans have a hole in the mysteries. I can see your underwear through that dress and not in a good way.” Together, we came up with what she called the Perfect Date Dress For A Second Date On Which We Think There Should Be Making Out. (Later, we just called it my kissing dress.)
A few weeks ago, I was in the shower, getting ready for a date. In a panic, I realized I had never chosen my outfit and I only had 10 minutes before I had to leave. I ran to the closet and started ripping through the hangers. And then I found it. The Kissing Dress. Until that moment, I’d forgotten all about that particular fashion show and how Kim had helped. How she loved the dress and helped me choose just the right earrings. How she threw Make Out JuJu my way before I gave her a kiss on the forehead and headed off into the night. Remembering that night made me feel warm, like she hadn’t died and was in the next room, waiting for a fashion show. And for the first time, I didn’t feel immediately crushed by sadness just thinking about her. I felt happy, lucky to have the memory. I put on the dress, twirled once, and headed out the door to do her proud.
Healing, y’all. It’s happening. This morning I turned in a column about my year with Kim. It was insanely difficult to write; how do you cut the story of our friendship to 800 words? Writing this article required me to feel things I’d been avoiding. I immersed myself in our text messages, emails, and Facebook posts. I listened to our favorite songs. I looked at pictures and even pulled out the Unicorn and Narwhal. It took me three separate days to even get words onto the page because I cried too much each time I tried. I stopped sleeping again because the memories brought back the bad dreams for a little while. Writing this piece shredded my heart.
Here’s what I didn’t realize though. Immersing myself in everything Kim unlocked memories long forgotten. How I’m supposed to try the cottage cheese (ew) pancakes at a local restaurant because they were Kim’s favorite and we kept meaning to get them before chemo but never did. The games we used to play during her infusions to keep her appetite strong. Hundreds of hugs, kisses, high fives, laughing until we cried conversations that nobody would think was funny but us. Avoiding the memories just prolongs the pain of losing her. Allowing myself to remember confirms that our friendship was real, important, and irreplaceable in my life.
Healing. It is happening every minute.