Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Losing Nicole

I found out yesterday that a close friend has died. I found out in a bizarre way, on Facebook. In a passing glance, I noticed that a friend had referred in the past tense to someone named Nicole. I thought at first that some celeb had died, but then, as a chill passed over me, I clicked over to Nicole's page, and saw the message from her mom, posted 10 days before. A first for me, notification of a friend's death via social network.

While I knew about the cancer, I hadn't realized it was terminal. Last I'd heard, she'd seemed OK, in her usual good spirits. I went back through her postings, to see when she'd written last. I scrolled past all the birthday greetings, including mine, greetings that went unanswered. Her last post was back in mid-July, a photograph of her sitting on a bench, her face lit by the summer sun. She looks happy, if a little thin, with a straw hat that partially shades her face. Present is the smile we were all blessed with. One of the last things she'd written was not long before that, a response to my wondering if she were in Canada. She said she was, then as if an afterthought, she replied again, this time the single word: "Permanently." I'm haunted by this 'permanently.'

Her 6 week absence on Facebook is now writ huge. I'm ashamed that I'd hardly noticed, yet a person's frequency of posts can be so nebulous. We can easily nuance things in any way we like. But, I can't help but wonder if anyone wondered about this silence. Did they know that she was nearing the end of her life? As I myself thought she was fine, I have to ask whether she herself knew.

In thinking back over my time in Tottori, I'm surprised at how many of my memories include Nicole. It's like she quietly instilled herself into my life to become one of my better friends. If you asked me who I was closest to, I might come up with other names first, but it dawns on me now that Nicole would definitely be somewhere near the top of that list. And I'm not alone in feeling that her ever-present joy and penchant for slightly awkward mischief made her so much fun to be around. And I'm surely not alone in how incredibly devastated I feel right now.

I remember teaching her to play drums, a skill that never seemed to take hold, but the rhythm presented itself in other forms, as a DJ and as our sometime on-stage percussionist. I remember our multiple music swaps and book recommendations. I remember the difficulty she had in adapting her boobs to yoga poses. I remember her compassion when I was divorcing and leaving Yonago behind.

And if I'm not mistaken, I believe she still owes me 20,000 yen.

Don't worry about it sweetie, you've always given me so much more.

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