Friday, October 06, 2006

I remember begging my friend, Carolyn, to come rollerskating....

I was 16, and I loved rollerskating, and I loved rollerskating with Carolyn. She would laugh at all my jokes, and hers were even funnier than mine! Once a week all summer long, an outfit rolled into town and turned the unused hockey arena into a roller-skating rink, complete with music and skate rentals. We were there every week without fail.

The last week of skating approached. School had already started, and the next week they would begin turning the cement floor into ice again for the hockey season. I called Carolyn and asked if she was coming. "My parents aren't home and I'm babysitting my little brother and sister. I can't come."

"But, Carolyn! It's the last skate of the year!! You HAVE to come! Couldn't you drive in and bring your sister and brother?" I whined. This was a terrible thing for me to ask her to do. Her parents were very strict, and I was sure they hadn't given her any kind of permission to do something so brash...but I really wanted to enjoy the last evening of skating with her.

"I'll see what I can do."

That is the last time I ever spoke to her. I arrived at the skate, laced up, and began racing around the arena, keeping one eye on the entrance, but she never showed up. I figured common sense must have prevailed, but I was disappointed she hadn't found a way to come. I skated alone until the very last note of the very last song.

Later that night, I got a phone call. Carolyn had been driving into town for roller skating with her little brother and sister in the back seat. She lost control going around a gravel corner and crashed the car, killing herself and her sister and severely injuring her little brother.

You can see that I felt responsible for this. How could I not? I begged her to come, I put the idea of driving into her mind, I urged her to sneak out of the house while her parents were away with her siblings...

There was a huge memorial at school. I was asked to give a short talk of my memories of her. I visited her parents. They were Japanese, and I saw for the first time a shrine to the dead, pictures of Carolyn and her sister on a table with beads and little items of hers and symbols in red and gold that I was unfamiliar with. There was a candle burning, I think. It seemed very sad and beautiful. I attended her funeral in a big temple, with robed priests banging gongs as we sat silently.

I walked alone through this whole time as one walks through a dark fog. I told no one of how I had cajoled her that evening.

10 comments:

canadiangirl said...

Man, I can't imagine how you felt... that would have hurt, having that happen... Brutal. Words fail me,

Belladonna said...

My God, girl, you take my breath away with your candor. I've been checkin' the blog daily to see if you felt ready to come back yet, wondering what words you would share this time. You have a true gift. Your scathing honesty as you look at various life experiences rocks my world. You make me think, you make me laugh, you make me feel things I've buried for a long, long time. Keep writin'. Your words give not only a remarkable record of your own life journey, but are also a fine gift for the rest of us who may be less ready to 'fess up to our own dark secrets or moments of angst. You inspire all of us to cast off our superficial faces and get a little closer to REAL. Blessings sister of the North. Your family remains in my prayers.

"The Rake" said...

wow.

Kim said...

I can't even imagine going through the death of a friend like that and feeling like you were to blame...all alone. I pray that you were washed free of the guilt that was never yours to hold a long time ago. My friend, you know you are loved.

Pondering Pig said...

Hey girl. Thanks for getting my keyboard wet with these stupid tears.

Pondering Pig said...

Just takes my breath away.

Patrushka said...

You have an incredible amount of courage, to confront and write about the dark places in your past. You never make excuses or try to "pretty things up" to make you look better. Thanks for your consistant honest writing.

Spoke said...

I recall a friend, Stewart. His dad was severly burned in a truck accident and was grotesquly difigured. The flames claimed his hair, nose, lips and one hand. His wife, Stewy's mum, left the family...walked out. I met Stewy a few years later. We were about 12. Stewy was always filthy and smelled bad. He was overweight. He was my friend. Stewy had a temper, he would throw your bike across the street if he was pissed at you. We would often mock Stewy...especially at school. When it was just me and him, I was cool. When in a gang, I was cruel too at times. I remember doing some juvenile thing where we had to run away from some adults...I ran with some other friends dangerously across a main street busy with traffic. I knew Stewy would cause tons of horn blasts from irate motorists because his fat frame wasn't as nimble as any of ours.It would ad to the childish excitment. It was as if I planned it. Stewy got hit.
He didn't die, but came close. All I could here as I ran away in fear, was Stewy shouting that he was gonna kill me.
Our friendship repair itself somehow...and then they were told to move out of their apartment. I don't know what happened to Stewy.

Tim said...

Hey cous. I remeber that time too and how it hit hard for you. I can't remeber if you told me about you phoning her. I still remember how nice she was.

Cousin Tim

Mr. V said...

Paula,

Thank-you. I had forgotten.

I don't mean that I had forgotten Carolyn; I thought of her often over the next few years as I got to know her younger sister (the one who survived the accident), and when a different classmate died, and when Carolyn's dad called me out of the blue a few years ago to ask if I could help his wife figure out e-mail, and again just this summer when I saw her older sister at the swimming pool. But I haven't spoken to anybody about those memories, ever since those first few weeks when all any of us could say was "I can't believe it. She was such a nice person."

I had just gotten to know her that summer, (mostly through you and through rollerskating, as I recall). I remember her laugh. I was insecure and self-absorbed and hungry for attention; I'm sure I appreciated the fact that someone would laugh at my jokes and attempts at showing off. Especially someone older. And female. But even more, I was impressed that she didn't try to show off or impress anyone and that she seemed genuinely interesed in others. She was real, and that is rare enough that you don't forget it.

But I had forgotten how her death affected you. I never knew that you had called her, but I knew that you were hurting. I didn't know what to say or do but I remember wanting to be able to do something. There was a glimmer of something more than the insecure, self-absorbed teen, but not enough. Reading your memory now, I can imagine how alone you must have felt and how friends might have softened that. If only.