Monday, July 21, 2014

My Brief Life with Amanda

1990 - 2014

Last Halloween, toward the end of a costume party, my friend Joe flagged me down as I loosey-goosily weaved my way through a crowd toward the booze. He introduced me to his friend and co-worker Amanda, who he declared was a serious reader like me. He also told her I wrote. This intrigued her.

What intrigued me was that she was dressed like a lady version of Alex from A Clockwork Orange.

A group of us did shots. As she drank her chaser, her eyes didn't leave mine. I smiled, she smiled. I asked what she was about, and in just a few minutes I was intrigued by a woman who graduated college at 19 and had read all of Dickens. She turned 23 the week before, and she was working as a data analyst, making more money than I probably ever will.

She came home with me that night, two wildly drunken messes rambling about books, by way of a generous ride of a friend. Once everyone left my apartment, she reviewed my bookshelves, and we discussed Kundera. I learned she had tattoos, and her next one was going to be text from the mind-altering masterpiece, and favorite of mine, House of Leaves.

For whatever stupid reason, I didn't follow up for a month. It's a more complicated story than that, but that's the best I can do right now. So on December 1st, I texted her.
  • J: Amanda! This is Jake, that mouthy idiot you whimsically decided to spend Halloween with, texting you a month later for...well, no good reason. Random? Sure. But just wanted to say if you're interested in goofing off, talking books and getting drunk, I do alright in those departments. Sending timely text messages...not so much.
  • A: Use of the word "whimsically" is just endearing enough to compensate for the lateness. I'll look forward to drunken bookish shenanigans.
On the first actual sorta-date, we ended up at Goat Hill Tavern, part of a joke. She was young and sassy, and both came out when I told her I wear earplugs to concerts.
  • A: "But the music is what's eating away at your hearing. You'll never hear certain pitches because of the music you've loved. You don't think that's beautiful?"
  • J: "No, not at all. I think that's dumb. And that might honestly be the youngest thing you've said all night."
She slugged me playfully, and we once again discussed books. She had not only read all of Dickens, but what seemed to be every dead French and Russian author under the black sun, a surprising detail of someone who major in mathematics.

Books recommended by Amanda:
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
  • In Search of Lost Time (specifically Swann's Way) by Marcel Proust
  • White Oleander by Janet Fitch
  • The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Inferno by Dante Alighieri
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
I actually bought Ethan Frome weeks later and then texted her.
  • A: That book might make you depressed instead of classy...however, I'll be sure to sport a monocle and raised pinkies around you henceforth.
  • J: Oh...shoot. I think I was always under the impression it was a satire of sorts. Regardless, I need to level up in society!
  • A: Nope...I remember it as an exploration of the many ways love can fuck up your life. It's worth a read, though Age of Innocence is my favorite Wharton and might get you closer to satire.
  • J: Wow. I misjudged this entirely. Thank god it's short. It sounds like it's going to kick me in the dick until I'm done with it. I do want to read Age of Innocence though. Also, I think The Bell Jar will be up next, so I can just feel bad indefinitely.
  • A: Yep, make sure you have a bowl nearby for your tears. The Bell Jar is one of my all-time favorites: I wrote my senior thesis on it in high school.
  • J: Damn. I feel like every other high school had senior thesis except for mine. I've always meant to read The Bell Jar, though I think I was pretty sassy when it came to girls reading excerpts from it to m back then.
  • A: Why would a girl read The Bell Jar to you? I can't imagine that book being used as anything but a repellant against most boys.
  • J: Well, it did seem weird, but I think it was the first intellectual text my female friends grasped and appreciated. Hemingway or Fitzgerald might've been the first for boys? It was during that era of youth where everyone first started having forced philosophical opinions on fucking EVERYTHING. 
We spoke briefly about our oddball relationship going somewhere, but both agreed it would likely not work between us. In the best interests of ourselves, we decided to keep up the romantic outings without putting it to the test of longevity. It was a good mix, and, hot damn, there was fun to be had.

She took me to bar trivia, because she knew it was a feverish guilty pleasure of mine. I took her to see Swan Lake at Segerstrom, because she was a former dancer who never saw it. The last morning we spent together, I played guitar, making up songs, while she laid up on her couch petting her cat. That was it. That was the last time I saw Amanda.

Some weeks later, after I had canceled on us visiting the Huntington Art Walk (due to a cold), I hit her up, and it was unfortunately the end of the wild.
  • J: Darling Lady Amanda! What say you to glorious delirium next Friday evening, whether it be cultured or bonkers? We can finally see that cowboy documentary I know you're so invested in, or we can attend that exhibit opening of popsicle stick structures I know you had your heart set on. Maybe even burn effigies for...well, fuck, I don't even know where I'm going with this.
  • A: Heyyy. I have a boyfriend now...but if you'd be interested in hanging out without the hooking up part, I really have been dying to see some popsicle stick art.
  • J: It was only a matter of time. You're too rad not to get swept up by some scholarly wisecracker. And, yeah, I'm still down to hang! Let's do it up on a week night then, instead of a Friday evening, so it's easier for me to not get hammered and forgetful. I need more classy art and book talk in my world.
  • A: Sounds good! Hit me up next week when you're free :)
And that was the last time I spoke to Amanda.

I got busy and figured I probably needed a break anyway to shift gears in our hangouts, from young hot bloods to platonic intellectual friends. I sincerely hoped that dude of hers was treating her right, because she was rad. Even if she and I weren't meant to be, I thought extremely well of her.

On Saturday night, Joe texted me. Someone at work informed him that Amanda had passed away, and it appears to be suicide. It's so fucking awful. So infuriatingly deliriously horrifyingly terrible. I don't have the words to describe it. It's just my nerves on alert and my senses all scrambled. I've asked myself every question they say you will. I'm so sad. So confused. So fucking angry. So mad at myself, so mad at the world, so blindly mad at that piece of shit boyfriend she had.

She was an exceptionally gifted person, and she could rock hell like nobody's business. She didn't take much shit from anyone, and the idea that someone somehow made her feel low enough to pass on a future she would've destroyed is fucking gut-wrenching. Fuck that. Fuck all of this. Fuck the whole idea of that girl not being around somewhere in the land of the living. Just knowing there's absolutely no chance I could ever hear her laugh again is fucking worth the fury.

I've left her last name out of this, because I don't want this post to pop up in the search results when people like me harass Google with every possible mix of words to find her obituary. I even had a slight suspicion that she faked her death. Finally, I broke, and on Sunday night, I texted her, "Please tell me the rumors aren't true." No response, and I can't see why there ever would be.

Last night, I bought Blonde Redhead's 23, the album she played the first night I stayed over, and I listened to it as I ran at the gym until the security guard told me to leave. I had to write this, because there's no need for some vague, cryptic "only the good die young" one-sentence bullshit on social media, and I wasn't going to let her leave this world (albeit, on her own terms) without me saying something that acknowledged her very great presence and her very tragic absence. I had to tell the internet somehow that a glorious person that was once here is no longer among us, and it was way, way too fucking early.

I was a recent force in her life, and I can't imagine how her family and dear friends are feeling. It's got to be off-the-charts grief, and, holy fuck, I wish this wasn't what the world was right now. I feel sick to my stomach for them, to have had her for that long and to lose her just as suddenly.

God-fucking-damnit. I wish I had more to go off of here. Even now, this is the only picture I have of us, a Snapchat my friend sent me (with a since-removed dirty caption):

The world is a difficult place, and it's hard to argue the breaking point for each individual. I just hope, next time, she's reincarnated as something close to who she was in this life, because that'd be her best-case scenario.

You're very much missed, Amanda.