Monday, October 21, 2013

Reflections On My Lost Friend

Cate killed herself on Saturday.

I did not find out in the best of ways. It started as conjecture, with my boy saying at 10:30 at night “Well, it looks like Cate died.”

I just stopped. My heart started beating and I thought of all the Cates I knew. I said “Who...who...what are you talking about?”

He named off a chain of people by which information was flowing his way. I just started shaking my head and shaking. I rushed to my computer and pulled up my own information, thinking surely this is like one of those celebrity someone-has-died sort of things.

Not Cate.

Not Cate.

“Cate hung herself Saturday night,” was the message.

There it was.

And that was that, there was no refuting it, no way to argue that this was not in fact a true thing. Something had driven this beautiful girl to seek out the best final peace she could get.

In 1997, she pulled me into her room and pointed at the wall there, “Look what I’ve done,” she said and pointed to the wall. In three-foot-high letters she had plastered across her dorm room: “WHO AM I?”


Cate was always full of laughs. I loved heryou couldn’t help loving her. She used to sit in class in a big oversized sweatshirt and a short grey skirt, masturbating along with the discussion. She’d be quiet and was almost amused she could get away with it.

She cut her hair short.

In 1997, it was a hot summer night. The piano had been moved to the back of the gym basement. I sat back there alone, sweating and playing. She scared me when she came in.

“That was beautiful,” she said.

“I was really just fucking about.”

“Play something else.” I did.

She sat beside me.

“It’s as beautiful as you are.”

“I’m not beautiful.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked me. I smiled and played some more, feeling that overwhelming throbbing attraction that was so beautiful and so overwhelming. First loves. First loves are always like that.

“What was that?” she asked. I told her what the song was about.

“Put your hands on the keys,” I commanded. She did. I told her to play and she banged at the keys and I followed along.

“This just makes me feel so many things!”

“What are you feeling?” I was being sly, hoping she felt what I was feeling.

She looked at me and I stared straight into her. Her hands were suddenly in my hair and her tongue was suddenly in my mouth. We walked to my room and spent the next 18 hours there.

In 1997, I went to work in a building by myself to pay for my tuition. It was a hot day. The grounds manager brought me lunch. Three hours later I was in agonizing pain. Cate found me.


“I hurt, Cate, I hurt so much.”

“You should go to a hospital.”

“No, I just...maybe I just need to lay down. It’s probably just food poisoning. Faulty tacos.” I laughed.

She stayed with me as I half-walked, half-crawled across campus and up to my room. She came to check on my an hour later. I was pale, flushed with sweat. She convinced someone with a car to drive me to the hospital. She held me as I shook in pain in the backseat. She stroked my hair, she whispered soothing things in my ear.

In 1997 I sat on a hospital floor shaking back and forth in pain. I recited my name, my mother’s maiden name, my father’s name, my social security number, over and over again until I passed out. She sat with me the whole time. When I blacked out from the pain she went to the nurses. The nurses were angry. They thought if I was in that much pain I should have taken an ambulance. I was a poor college student with next to no health insurance. I would have laid in my room and died if Cate hadn’t helped me down the stairs and crawled with me to the car.

“She stopped moving about 20 minutes ago. Do you think you might want to admit her now? I think she may have died.”

In 1997 an incompetent nurse complained about not being able to put a catheter on me because of my size. Cate (who had spent some time getting acquainted with me) ended up guiding her hand. The ultrasound showed a massive, horrible growth. They later had to run a CAT scan. They decided it wasn’t immediately fatal, but I would need surgery and soon. Cancer was tossed around.

I lay sweating in the bed after drinking the fluid for the CAT scan. Cate sat and held my hand. She asked me if I wanted anything from my room. I asked for my blankie. She made people drive her back to Armstrong house to get my blankie and my pillow. I laid on her bosom, sucking my thumb, and went to sleep with her there. She came and got me the next day and helped me check out. Carried me to my room.

She asked me if I wanted anything, and brought me food. It was to be the only solid food I ate for a week. She went to England the next day. I didn’t see her again for a year. When she returned, she found me in the basement. I smiled to see her. She smiled to see me. We ended up hot and heavy in a bathroom stall in the gym basement.

We talked on and off. I knew her adventures. I knew her battle with depression. I knew I had a deep love for her. I knew she would always be one of my first loves.

My last memory of her was at Godot. She was playing guitar. “I’m going to teach myself the accordion,” she said. She played Tori Amos' "Talula" on the guitar.

I smiled.

She traveled far and wide, a member of a roaming bad; she visited countries, lived like the poor, lived hand to mouth, but lived. She lived so much, so fast. Maybe too much, maybe too fast.

On Saturday we joked about drinking.

On Saturday she killed herself.

She saved my life, and now, here I sit and wonder if I didn’t listen hard enough, or maybe if I had paid more attention I could have saved hers. I won’t know. I can never know.

I missed her before last night.

I miss her even more now.


Channing said...

Thanks for posting this. Cate was a great friend and neighbor and I miss her terribly. It is nice to see other stories verifying what a wonderful person she was.

Saradevil said...

It's me dealing with it in my own way. Together we are not alone. Gods know she is very missed.

Auntie Lolo said...

I keep catching myself thinking of Cate's death as just a phase she's going through, a thing she's trying out. As in, _Gee, I wish she would hurry up and stop being dead so I can tell her about..."

I keep thinking I have no right to let her going affect me so deeply. We lived in the same building for a summer, maybe a couple of summers.

But the thing about Cate was, she was so absolutely pure. Every conversation we had was of weight, resonance, substance. Poesis. She never buckled down to this world's lies. She never pretended that it wasn't magical or intellectual or difficult or beautiful, that apples were merely round and red because that's what we were taught in school. And I never told her what a hero that made her to me.

Thank you for remembering her. Someday, maybe, I'll explain why you're a hero, too.