Thursday, October 12, 2006

"I'm a good man"

What a day. I did my usual getting up and then going back to sleep b/c it's too cold to bear. Then I picked up Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons, my birthday gift from Gili, which I had brought up last night to sleep next to in case I wanted to read in the a.m. I just finished it tonight, and loved it. I forgot that I'm still allowed to read books that say "ages 10-14." I haven't done that until now - it's wonderful! At the end of it, I thought about when they were deciding where to bury Githa, though I think she had already decided before she died that she wanted to stay in the bay area, even though she grew up in New York. I didn't make the funeral; there was no way I could fly back to San Francisco after having just been there a week before to be with her when she died (not that I knew that was going to happen when I booked the flight. Or maybe some part of me did). I flew back to Chicago that Sunday, after very fitful sleep in Ernie's hotel room, which was after we had circled San Francisco looking desperately for a place to eat at 3am. She passed around 1am - I ran out of the ER into the parking lot and made a screaming crying call to my little sister in New York - she had lost a best friend when she was 16, so she got it, and had already been warned hours before when I called her outside the hospital, saying that she was in critical condition (you never think that you'll ever have to say that phrase in real life about someone you know). I left a message for a boy I was in love with who was totally useless for the entire thing. I called Louis in Hawaii b/c I couldn't think of anyone else w/the time difference who would be up and left a message. I ended up somehow calling her fiance Carlos at the time, and he was very, very sweet. We had never met.

Ernie and I finally found a Denny's where I had a pretty sorry tuna sandwich. I got up again at 5 or 6am b/c Anju called - she knew, but didn't really want to believe it. She and Joel were going to drive down from Sonoma to meet Ernie and me before going to the morgue. Then I went into the bathroom, closed the door, sat on the toilet, and started calling everyone I knew in New York: my parents, my/Githa's old orchestra teacher, Breda, Amy, etc. I dressed and went across the street to get water from the drugstore and when I got back, Anju and Joel were already in the lobby. I called Githa's dad from the hotel room, and said we were all there and would meet him at the hospital. He was picking up his wife, daughter, and Anju's mom from the airport. He said some heartbreaking things about me being like his daughter now. Everyone looked like hell in the hospital, and Anju resisted going downstairs, but did in the end. It was good that she did, but at the time I didn't want her to do it if she didn't want to.

I left for SFO, landed at O'Hare, and rode the train to Logan Square, where Eric picked me up and drove me home. I didn't go to papermaking class the next morning at 9am. I fully intended to. I did go to 6pm text class, though, and when Zeke asked how my friend was (we were meeting at the Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection) and I said she had died, it was awkward, since it was still early in the first semester of our first year of grad school, and none of us were very close. I had been on the train w/Audrey on the way over and told her about what happened. She said if it was her, she wouldn't be there and that I didn't have to be there. That night, looking at books after washing our hands, I started to cough.

I flew out to LaGuardia the next day, and met my sister for a fancy Mexican lunch near Lincoln Center (back when she used to work at Disney), and was definitely sick. She took my bags to take home to my parents, and then I went to the boy. He wouldn't even talk about it. It was the flu, and instead of going home, I stayed with him. I went home the next day after arranging a memorial service in Westchester, since so many of us were there for Thanksgiving. My mom drove me to Sheri's house and I said hi to a bunch of people and then had to do one of those awful "hi, blahblah" to the video camera that was going to be sent to her family, and then I left b/c I was awfully sick.

When I visited her that last time, I came with gifts from friends in Chicago: a drawing from Eric, something from Amy, and a Josh Ritter CD from an Obie friend who was Josh's first-year roommate. I put it into my iBook as soon as I got there to play it for her: Hello Starling. I listened to it a lot when I was riding the train in NY that week. I wore a white coat the whole time. I brought a piece of handmade paper for her with a big red heart in the middle that I had pulp painted. She had her dad hang it in the window so she could see it from her la-z-boy. When I slept w/her next to me that night, I was scared that I might roll over her and crush her brittle bones. I had called the boy to ask if I moved around a lot in my sleep. He said that he always fell asleep before me so he didn't know. In the middle of the night, I heard her laughing in her sleep. Barbara told me later that the spirit leaves the body 24 hours before the body dies. Exactly.

Githa's mom called me to ask if it was okay to put the heart paper in her casket when she was buried. I still haven't visited her grave. The only grave I've ever visited of someone I knew was my grandmother in Korea, where they make a huge mound. It was way out in the country, countryside I had never seen in Korea b/c we always stayed in the city. My grandfather was still alive then, and asked if I could find my name on her stone; all of her descendants were carved into one side of it. I pointed it out, and he was impressed that I could find it b/c it wasn't in Korean, but Chinese characters. Those are the only three Chinese characters I know how to read and write: my name.

I can't read Korean very well at all, and very slowly. My parents taught me but I stopped out of sheer frustration (they linked daily Korean study w/my allowance, and took away a dollar for every day I skipped. I was losing money, b/c there were 7 days in a week, and 5 dollars in my allowance). Today, I was on a mail art roll. I made a little bit of paper and baked it, almost burning and certainly scorching, again. I was cranky about having to interact w/people - the sun had come out and I wanted to get everything done in my burst of motivation and energy. The miso soup from Ellie was divine and reminded me of home. Whenever I go home, my mom always makes a miso-based soup for me and I eat the entire pot myself. I came downstairs for Dreamweaver duty, and found a pink envelope from home: my birthday card! Sparkly Hallmark. My parents always get me big, scripty Hallmark cards. I read it very slowly and got most of it, kind of. I talked to my dad tonight and I can tell he's going soft w/age; he kept saying how sorry he was that he wouldn't be able to be w/me on my birthday this coming Monday, and who knows when we'll be together for another one. I was like, dad, I haven't been home for my birthday for the past three years. I've been in Chicago, remember? But he kept being sad about that.

I got to see Josh Ritter in concert in Chicago after Githa died, and talked to him afterwards for a little bit about it. I've been listening to him all day today, on repeat, part of my birthday gift from Ellie. Mostly his new album, The Animal Years. I love it. I adore the first track completely ("Girl in the War"), and also love "Best for the Best." But I reallllly love "Good Man" (which is on right now). I'd like a good man. Not the kind who ignores the fact that my best friend died and that I was with her when it happened and that maybe I needed to talk about it, or at least have a knowing hug.

Last night, I had a dream that they were plowing the cornfield next door, and that it was muddy, and I could see the tracks in the mud. My bedroom was on a track shaped like a rounded L, and it moved on that track, while I looked out the window and pulled back my hair. I'm growing my hair out again. When it was long and Githa was first diagnosed with leukemia, I wanted to cut it all off to give to her. But it's not so simple. On the flight to Chicago from SFO, I sat in the aisle w/my iBook and wrote everything I could remember from that weekend, and cried. It was stop-and-start endless crying, wet and free tears, more than I had ever shed. I worried a little about people thinking I was crazy, but I couldn't help it. I saved it in a folder named after her.

I found it last year when cleaning out files, and read it and cried again. I had forgotten so many of the details. I had forgotten that I had remembered so many of the details on that flight. We stayed up late her last night b/c she insisted on buying me late birthday and early Christmas presents. Since I had just moved to Chicago, we looked at all the warm clothes on Land's End. Karin, who had been living in Minneapolis for a while, had told me that midwest winters are fine as long as you have good long underwear and a down coat. Githa insisted that I not get a black or white coat, but a brightly-colored one. That's why I've walked around Chicago for the past three winters like a turquoise penguin. It's true: a good down coat keeps out all the cold. Tonight, I think I'll skip all the artmaking I was going to do. I'll change into my silk long underwear that she ordered me, and run upstairs through the frigid, dark air, and jump into my queen-sized bed. When it's this cold, I'm pretty sure that I don't roll around in bed at night.


  1. Walk two moons! I just got that from the library on CD! Riva, a mutual friend of Gili's, recommended it to me. I'm sad you finished it so fast! It would have been nice to read it together at the same time. Oh well.

    I really enjoy reading about your experience with Githa. When all of that happened, I don't think I could relate at all, and even today I know I can't fully understand what you went through. But since time has passed and things have happened, I have hint of what that kind of loss feels like. I identify with the part about trying to remember everything. You're doing such a good job. And I'm glad you're still alive. Happy Birthday! I love you.

  2. Wow. I really hope that Walk Two Moons was a good experience for you. I know you said you loved it but
    I worry that it brought you down in not a good way.
    At the same time, your post about Githa was beautiful and honest and deep and strong. She really shaped you in so many ways. I never knew her but she sincerely shines through you.

    My sister, Kimberley, was the first person to recommend Walk Two Moons. She is an avid YA book reader (young adult) and she comes up with amazing stuff to suggest to me. Years ago, Miles and I read it aloud and it was one of the most important books I've ever read. We couldn't read the end outloud because we were crying so hard. Then we recommended it to Riva who recommended it to polarchip. Keep spreading it if you like it. Sharon Creech's other books are really not on the same level. It's one of a kind.

    But young adult books or even books 10-14 are often really amazing. This is because there's often much more selectiveness and criticism that goes into publishing these books. Not that there aren't a lot of crappy YA books, but there's a lot of amazing Newbury winners, blah blah. I'm wired, I'm back from New York. I need to stop blogging.

    I hope you liked it or I hope it was good to read. I mean, I know you said you loved it, but I worry I impose too much depressing stuff on you. (music, books, etc.)

  3. no!!!! you SO are not a depressing things pusher. i LOVE everything i've gotten from you. i was just sitting here knitting, thinking how lucky i am to have had all the gifts you've sent, in every way. i was just feeling sad about a person i'm not friends w/anymore (big falling out, big misunderstanding, bad communication), but then thought, hey! i was lucky to have more wonderful people to step into place. so i feel really lucky.

    i'm glad we're all reading/have read walk too moons. it IS really great.

    i actually loved the part about phoebe and the cholesterol and all. it reminds me of how healthy githa's family ate (no junk food!) and how my family was so different. and also about how githa found out that she had a zillion food allergies, which were many of the foods she grew up eating, which made her wonder if that's why she was so crazy as an adolescent.

    i think it's funny we ALL went to oberlin but didn't know each other! i love it. i love all the path crossings and how it happens just when it needs to happen.


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