Find her on facebook. A friend of a friend was tagged in a note that her older sister wrote. Hanna Clark, died in a car accident late at night, with her boyfriend. She was 22.
Look at photographs. She's cute. Her eyes wrinkle at the sides when she smiles. She has nice taste in dresses. You think she might be wearing some shoes that you also own, but you can't really tell.
Spend a lot of time doing this, long enough that you forget that you're thinking about her in the present tense. Go back to the note, read the comments. Go to her wall, read the wall posts. Look at her notes, see if she's written anything meaningful or deep, something you can connect with, but all that's there is a list of her favorite songs.
Look the songs up on iTunes. You only like one, but buy at least four.
Think about your own favorite songs. Post a note about them.
Realize how you've spent the last three hours and feel guilty and morbid. Wonder what kind of car Hanna drove. Think about your own car, back home, and whether it will be hard or not to start driving again after six months without doing so. Wow, has it really been six months? Yeah, it was in the shop last time you were at home.
Think about your own older sister. Wonder if she would post a note about you on facebook, if you died.
Look at poetry for a while.
Look at that letter you wrote, the In The Event Of My Death one. You used to update it about every four months, but looking now you see that it hasn't been touched in almost a year. Rewrite it. Wonder how many other people have an In The Event Of My Death letter. Did Hanna have one?
Look at the clock, hold your eyes open long enough to brush your teeth and examine your tired face in the mirror. Debate skipping class tomorrow morning, but decide to go. Midterms are soon.
A couple of days later, see a poster for a candlelight vigil for Hanna. Think about going, then mentally slap yourself. You don't know her. You only barely know your facebook friend-of-her-friend.
Think about how well you have to know someone to go to their funeral.
Think about who will go to your funeral.
Slap yourself again (mentally of course, wouldn't want people staring). You are going to be a grandma someday, stop thinking about dying young.
Call your sister when you get home. She's busy, doesn't really want to talk to you, but you're still glad that you called. When she tries to push your buttons over the phone, resist, be more pleasant than you usually are with her. She gives up, and is pleasant too, but still brief. Call your mom, who will be happier to talk to you. She asks how things are, but you don't really think she cares. Tell her anyway. Not about Hanna, of course, just your midterms and how you're feeling much better than last week, when you had that cold. Listen to her when she tells you all about money troubles, how dad wants to buy a boat or rebuild the back porch even though it looks fine to her, and they need that money to send you to college. Feel guilty about going out of state, but don't say anything about it, since it will just make mom feel worse. Consider transferring. Put that thought on the back burner, at least until midterms are over.
Later that night, talk to your best friend on Skype. Wish that he lived next door, instead of five states away. Think about long distance relationships. Wonder how Hanna met her boyfriend. Did they love each other? Whose fault was it that the car crashed? Did they ever Skype with each other? Play her favorite song. Wonder if you haven't in fact heard it before, on the radio or some place.
Ask your friend on Skype some really deep thoughtful question. Try to spark a conversation that means something. Think about going back and reading it later. Think about somebody else going back and reading it later, and wonder if it will sound as good to them as it does to you. Probably not.
That weekend, Alice asks you to go to church with her again. Agree, just because you want to see her. Wonder why you bother. You don't really believe it anymore. Try to imagine telling your mom you're agnostic, or maybe even atheist, then try not to imagine her response.
During the service, only half listen. Wonder about human nature, why people believe in religion, why it exists. Wonder if Hanna was religious. Wonder if it made her life any better. Will her funeral be religious? You went to a religious funeral once, and you felt like an outsider. You were just waiting for the priest to point at you with fire in his eyes, and everyone to grab you in unison and throw you out the beautiful wooden doors, even though you'd loved the man who had died very much.
Think about how many people will be at Hanna's funeral. Or did it already happen? You forget the date of the vigil. Did you miss it?
No, idiot, you weren't going to go anyway, remember?
Think about vigils for people you love. Would you travel five states to go to your best friend's funeral? Yes. What would you do if he died?
Almost find yourself crying. Try to figure out if your period is coming, then hate yourself for blaming hormones. That's a cheap excuse.
Think about your best friend and hate hormones for a while. Examine all of the men in your life and try to imagine yourself married to one of them. If he is from out of state, where would you live?
Woah woah woah slow down. Listen to the service for a while again. Wonder if there is a God. Wonder if He's taking care of Hanna and her boyfriend.
Later that night, read the note by Hanna's sister again. Look at her sister's profile. You can't see much, it has privacy settings every which way. Think about how much prettier Hanna was than her sister is, then feel like a disgusting person. Look at yourself in the mirror for a while and wonder if anyone thinks you're pretty. Mom doesn't count.
Diane asks you out for coffee on Tuesday; accept gladly. Ever since you got that single room, you've been feeling lonely. Think about how your old roommate is doing. You should call her. Wonder if Hanna had a roommate. Wonder how she's feeling now.
Coffee is good, but at the end realize that you only absorbed about ten percent of what Diane told you. Feel like a bad friend. Suddenly remember your dream, how it felt like you were waking up and falling asleep a lot but it was only ever a dream. Feel confused and tired. Apologize to Diane, but you're not sure if she knows what you're sorry for. Try to remember what it's like to have energy, and to be happy. Think about your best friend. Wonder if he's happy. Wonder if he flirts. Wonder if you flirt, without trying to. Feel embarrassed about that one time with Joshua, and wonder what your life would have been like if you'd just gone ahead and kissed him instead of walking away. Are you a tease? What does it mean to be a tease? You're sure as hell not easy. If you were, you'd have lost your virginity by now, right?
Feel stupid for moping. Wonder when Hanna lost her virginity. Wonder if her boyfriend was more experienced than her. What had their first time been like?
Feel sick to your stomach for thinking about that.
Call your mom again. She doesn't have anything new to say, but is still glad you called. You don't usually call this much, is something wrong? She's wondering if you feel all right. Reassure her, then hang up as soon as possible.
Look at your facebook friends in the same school network as you, and try to think about which ones you could invite out to coffee. Think about which ones you might marry someday. Slap yourself (mentally, of course, wouldn't want people staring). Oh wait. You're alone.
Watch a movie by yourself instead of doing homework. Wonder if Hanna ever saw it.
Take a shower with some new Raspberry Brazil Nut shampoo that you don't really like the smell of. Wonder what Hanna smelled like. Try not to picture her dead body. Is she buried now? Cremated?
Look at photos of yourself on facebook. You look happy. Your eyes don't wrinkle like Hanna's did.
Look at your play counts, and realize how many times you've listened to those songs you downloaded, the ones from her facebook note. Realize that you'd forgotten where they'd come from. Feel apathetic.
Pass your midterms, just barely. But good enough. Worry about tuition and housing for a while. Think about the new porch your dad wants to build. Wonder if Hanna had money troubles.
Your best friend hasn't been on Skype lately. Hope that he's happy. Miss him. Feel pathetic. Look at eligible bachelors in your area via facebook friend browsing again. Feel more pathetic. Wonder if Hanna ever felt pathetic. Of course she did. Wonder if you had met her, if you would have thought of her as pathetic. Think about how people's opinions change about the dead. Wonder if she's been made better by her friends.
A couple of months pass. You've mostly stopped thinking about her. Life has finally turned up a little. You see Diane more often. She even comes over to cook dinner with you once a week. You haven't been to church again, but you're okay with that. You've been talking with David from French more often lately. This makes you feel better when your best friend five states away is telling you about the girl he's been flirting with.
David goes to see a movie with you, and walks you home after. Walk by some candles and flowers on the sidewalk. You don't know who they're for, but remember Hanna again, and feel bad for almost forgetting her. Wonder how long it will take people to forget you, after you die. Wonder if David knew her. You were all at school together, after all. But that doesn't mean much. It's a big school.
After you're inside, slightly disappointed that David didn't kiss you, think about the flowers some more. Pretend they're for you. Imagine dying in a car accident. Wonder how many people will be at your funeral. Wonder how many of them never really knew you. Think about calling Hanna's sister, then laugh at yourself humorlessly. Think about a stranger calling your sister, months after you die. Look at a picture of Hanna again. Decide that she doesn't have your shoes after all.
Wonder if it would be better to have a big showy death or a tiny quiet one. Think about the tragedy of having someone learn your name only after you're gone. You don't want anyone to wait to meet you until after you're dead. Wonder if you're actually a huge hypocrite. Would Hanna have liked you, if you'd met her before she'd died? Would you have liked her?
Close the window with her photos. Tell yourself that you won't forget her.