When I was 19 years old, my girlfriends and I decided to drive Soung’s car down to New Orleans for Spring Break. It was to be Soung, Melissa, Katrina and me. We came up with the idea on a whim but that didn’t stop Katrina. Katrina took care of the planning. She figured out where we’d stay and what we’d do there. She mapped out our route and our schedule. She was like that, Katrina. She got things done, bless her sweet heart.
The trip was a success. Somehow, within four small days we managed to gain the experience we yearned for and returned home with stories to tell. We saw The Preservation Jazz Hall Band, we wandered Bourbon Street and had a few florescent-colored drinks. We saw hookers, above-ground graves, lilly pads, mardis gras beads, and almost all of the French Quarter. We sat along the muddy waters of the Mississippi River and watched the boats move to and from someplace different. We saw a homeless men masturbating and all of us shrieked in horror. Katrina organized a group dinner and half the youth hostel came together to eat. She had a way with people.
Last September, while I was in D.C. for work, Soung, Katrina and I got together and made a HUGE pasta dinner. It was just like old times again. The three of us sat there and served as witnesses to the one another’s history. We found ourselves reminiscing about the past. Of course, New Orleans came up and before you knew it, we were laughing like idiots, remembering all the goofy things that went on down there, such as our never-ending quest for decent food and Katrina’s ability to make friends with EVERY SINGLE person we came in contact with. We laughed about the “Bama” song we wrote while desperately trying to stay awake in order to abide by Katrina’s pre-planned driving schedule. We talked about the German tourist we met, the dancing bum, the farmer’s market and the coffee shop. It felt so good to be there. With them. Just so.
I will never forget that vacation. I will never forget the three people I shared it with. Those four days mattered more to me than months together have since. Those days were concentrate.
On Tuesday night, I got a phone call from Soung. I didn’t answer the phone because I was sleeping at the time. I didn’t hear her message until Wednesday morning. Soung sounded distraught. And as I write this, I can feel the regret more than I can the keys I use to type this. (I really wish I had answered the phone. I am so sorry, Soung.)
Katrina died. She is no longer with us. She died in her sleep.
Some people believe in God because of a dire need to give life reason. Others, believe that God just is. Their faith is that strong. The moment Soung said the words to me, I wanted God to exist. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to have someone to blame. I went from feeling pure hatred, to an unbearable sadness within a micro-second. I’m not even sure there is a word for the amount of time it took for my knees give way and my eyes to flood. How can a 35 year old woman just die like that? How long was she dead? Did she feel pain? Who was the last person to see her? Why did this happen? How did this happen? What happened?
I waited for something. Through my stupid cell phone, I heard Soung make a sound because neither one of us could really speak. It was then it occurred to me that after the words, “Katrina died.” she was going to follow them with “But she’s O.K.” I waited for her to say that to me. I’m still waiting for her to say that to me.
Katrina was a beautiful woman. She had a way of lighting up a room with her laugh and her smile. I know that’s what folks say about people when they die, but do I ever mean it.
Katrina was sometimes crippled by depression. Ever since I’d known her, she had some troubles, real troubles, the kind of troubles you really wish you had the power to remove from a person. Her troubles in college were different than they were more recently. It was later, once she moved to D.C., that the depression seem to take root and begin to grow into something she could no longer control or ignore. I imagine that when things were bad, she didn’t know that things weren’t always going to be that bad. (I feel badly even suggesting I know or understand any of this. But I feel better somehow writing it all down.)
In the winter of 2003, Katrina discovered mihow.com through my Friendster profile. We had been out one night and she told me she was on Friendster. Both of us had very few buddies. We laughed about it then. After she read my profile, she clicked on mihow.com. She sent me several unbelievable emails letting me know that she really enjoyed my site and found herself reading through the archives, sometimes laughing, sometimes feeling sort of sad. I wrote her back to thank her. When we saw each other a few weeks later down at the pool hall, she reiterated what she had said in the email. What she said made me feel so elated. I hope that I told her that. Instead, I probably shook it off because compliments make me feel uneasy. One night while we were all out playing pool, Katrina talked about her depression and how she felt sometimes. I remember selfishly thinking, “God, this woman is beautiful. I wish she could just KNOW that and be happy.” (How could I even begin to pretend I understood how painful her depression was? I selfishly figured that since I’d tasted my own before, I could somehow relate. All I knew that when it’s boastful, god damn is it ever crippling.)
I don’t really want to remember her like that. I want to remember her as the smiling Katrina. I want to remember the girl who could uproot your day and stomp on it with a steel-toed smile. I want to remember the girl who I drove to New Orleans with who, while driving along the dark roads of Alabama, was struck by the spontaneity of song. I am pretty sure that because of that night, our voices can still be heard by everyone. Because along with feeling sad sometimes, she was all things wonderful.
She was such a sweet girl. My God, will I miss her. My God, do I hope that Soung is O.K. because if I feel this bad, I can only imagine the pain she must be feeling right now. I wish I could bring her back. My God, I wish you would come over so I could scream at you. I hope that Soung is O.K. My God, I’m so tired of crying.
Goodbye, sweet girl. You will be forever missed and loved.