Yellow is the Color of the Sun
Yesterday I discovered that a dear friend from high school, the woman who was the maid of honor at my wedding, has been dead for three years.
I met Kim at number 7 of the 8 schools I attended in my 12 years of primary education. She lived at our second California stop on the tour, but I managed to get myself back to California for a few years of college, so her friendship spanned almost all of my teenage years. Kim was ballsy and effervescent at the same time, and she would say just about anything that came into her head. I was beginning the brooding phase that would last the next half decade of my life, and I believe if it weren’t for her, may have become a permanent situation. For those years, until I ran back home to Texas with my tail between my legs, Kim was my family, my sanity, the voice that told me to smile already because everything was going to be all right.
When I got the news, I hadn’t seen Kim in nearly 13 years, not since the day of my wedding. Sam and I went off to our honeymoon, and Kim and her sister went back home to California. We kept in touch for years, though we knew we would probably never see each other again, but as time and distance stacked up against us, the phone calls started drying up. It happens, I know, and I blame both of us and neither of us.
A few days ago, I was telling Sam a story about Kim that I'm sure he'd heard a dozen times, and I realized that it had been too long since I heard from her. I looked at her Facebook page and there was a thud like lead bumping around in my chest because the posts were not Kim, bubbling and bumbling her way across the internet. The posts were her family casting prayers to her in the afterlife, calling to her ghost, chiding her for not being there, not being here anymore. The posts marked holidays, her birthday, the anniversary of her death. It's this beautiful, terrible, cathartic, one way conversation just hanging there, waiting for stragglers like me to wander along and realize that she is gone.
And though she has been gone for several years, to me it happened last night. Last night, as I was curling up in bed and loading up Facebook, I lost her. Last night, I gripped the blanket, white knuckled, saying aloud to no one, "No, it can't be," counting the years on my hand with disbelief that it had really been that long. Last night, I cried for the loss of Kim, because she was not out there in the world anymore. I cried for her parents' loss, and her sister's and her daughter's.
I went back into those years, sitting at the coffee shop with Kim, driving to her parents' house on weekends, drinking Midori, listening to music in her boyfriend's apartment. As I traveled backwards in time, I realized that I was crying, too, for the final passing of an era in my life. My teenage years were wrapped up in Kim, tethered to her buoyancy. Without her, I would have been completely, miserably stuck on the ground. But Kim was infectious, and she lifted me out of my impossible angst, pulled me up with her into the clouds.
With Kim gone, it's as if those years disappeared as well. She was the witness, the one person who knew those years happened to me, who saw the moments that made me into the person I am today. She was the one who knew that when I said, "Yellow is the color of the sun," I meant remember the color song? and wasn't that trip the best? and let's not mention the loud talking bra incident.
Until last night, Kim had been frozen for me, as if she had stopped aging and changing the moment I left her world and moved back to Texas. The last time we spoke, she was apologetic that her life had not unfolded the way she planned it, as if she was worried she had disappointed me. I told her the truth: she had seen me at the worst moments in my life and never flinched so why should I flinch when she was at hers?
Last night I couldn't help but think of that last conversation when I read her profile. It said, "I have a rough recent history but that doesn't define who I am. God's grace is sufficient for me." And then I saw Kim as I suppose God sees us all, her whole life superimposed on itself, like negatives stacked on top of each other, the light bleeding through them all, making a new picture entirely of the images. I saw her life not as a linear thing but as compact unit, saw the loveliness of her every moment stacked on all the other moments of her short life. Her life was not a highlight reel of best and worst moments but a beautiful overlay of all her moments at once, seen in the clarity of hindsight.
It was a vision of life, of the way we must be seen by immortal eyes, that stuck with me today. I looked at my boys and saw, for the first time, that their lives would also have that overlay someday. I saw, too, and selfishly hoped it would be true, that more likely they would be the ones around someday to see my life in that cross section view. One day, every moment of my existence will be visible to them in that lens of finality. I can only hope that when I am gone, they will see visions as lovely as the yellow sun I saw when I looked over the life of my friend.