This time of year still hits me hard.
It is the anniversary of the death of my best girlfriend, Angel, who died too young and left an Angel-shaped hole in my life.
“Can it be six years?” I ask my husband, Peter, in disbelief. Angel died at 50 years old, six years ago.
In the years since she died, I have tried to fill the spot she occupied without success. I expect new friends to be like Angel, and this is, of course, unfair. I expect they will be willing to listen to whatever mad idea has entered my head at any hour of the day. I expect them to type as fast as they speak and keep up three conversations at once—usually with people on different sides of the globe.
While I considered Angel my best girlfriend, I had no illusions that she felt the same about me. Angel was rich in friends. There was no limit to her ability to support and encourage and cajole and occasionally berate her legions of friends into being more hopeful and less gloomy and better able to face the very particular challenges of their lives. Angel floated into and over so many lives. I was just lucky to be one of them.
Of course, she was no angel.
I remember her boyfriend, Alain, discovering she had thawed out all the baguettes he had been saving in the freezer. He was enraged and at a loss for words.
“She is not perfect!” he finally exploded.
This was not news to anyone who knew her. We did not seek her out because she was perfect. We sought her out because she was so unbelievably real.
There was no experience she would dismiss out of hand, no passion she did not think was worth exploring, no body of knowledge she felt was beyond her depth. Art and cooking and politics and string theory and Disney movies and bad ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll and fashion and trashy novels and whatever else the person she happened to be talking to was interested in—this is what Angel was interested in. She tried everything. She was the first to admit she was wrong—and she frequently was. But it never discouraged her from experiencing another thing, learning a bit more.
Today, I felt a little wicked.
I spoke the truth to a friend. I told him he had hurt me and that I didn’t want to put up with his nonsense anymore. It’s the sort of thing I don’t often do. Usually, I tell myself how lucky I am and how much easier things are for me than for some people and how I should just forget about the slight. This time I did not. I felt a little guilty, I confess.
And I heard Angel laughing.
Angel would chide me for being so anxious, so careful, so worried about things—things that were never worth worrying about in the long run. She was all about speaking her truth. She was all about getting her needs met without shame or embarrassment. She has been dead for six years, and she is still teaching me. She was bigger and freer and more lively than any person I’ve known, which is why it is so hard to accept that she is no longer alive.
I don’t need another friend like Angel, because there are no other friends like Angel. Besides, the goal was never to replicate her. The goal was to try—in my cautious, nervous, high-strung way—to become a bit more like her.