1. Wednesday, May 28, 2014 3:27 P.M.
I run over a rabbit. This doesn’t sound that extreme especially given that I live in the desert mountains where jack rabbits and cottontails are constantly darting across sun-bleached asphalt. My kids are in the car; they don’t see anything. They hear me screech and slap my hand over my mouth. Tires thrum once—twice over the little gray body. What’s wrong? Mom, what’s wrong? They both echo from the backseat. Are you sad? I look in the rearview mirror and see the little white puff of the tail lying beside gray ears. Hot tears roll down my face and I say, Yes. Mommy’s sad.
2. Wednesday, May 28, 2014 8:43 A.M.
Maya Angelou is dead. Or so my Facebook news feed says. I am immediately sad. Maya Angelou was the first female poet I ever learned about. Before her, I had never heard of a woman poet. Ever. I knew Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Frost. I credit the following lines with drawing me to a life of language and wordsmithing:
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
Dr. Maya Angelou opened my throat to sing. I can’t help it. I cry.
(Read it here: Caged Bird)
3. Friday, May 23, 2014 10:16 P.M.
He looks like a Political Science professor with his salt and pepper beard and wired-rimmed glasses. But when he speaks of Christopher, when he speaks of his loss, his anger towards politicians and their failure to do anything about the mass shootings, Richard Martinez’s voice deepens and swells, rumbles like a fucking hurricane. It catches in his throat and he sputters out words through tears that make me ache. His anger is so raw, so unmasked, I can’t help but to cry when I hear his grief. When he speaks of his son, his beautiful, lovely, articulate, twenty-year-old son, I cry.
4. Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, 6:26 A.M.
She is dead. She is dead and I am confused. I just saw her last week. I click on her Facebook page because there must be a mistake. But there is no mistake. Her uncle has announced her death. Her cousins and friends add to the thread, endless good-byes and R.I.P.s. I am still confused.
I quickly message another student, a friend of Genevieve’s and another former student of mine. What is this business about Gen? She didn’t really pass, right? Before my student can get back to me, the posts keep coming. I will miss you, Gigi. God has another angel. I know it’s true before I can even log off.
I don’t cry. Not immediately anyways. I just saw her. She came to my office just two weeks ago to announce she was transferring to Asuza Pacific. I chuckled. Not because she wants to go there, but it is the way Gen talks. She is so excitable that she can’t contain it; she almost has to hold down her hands when she is telling me. Her eyes—her beautiful copper eyes shake while she laughs—almost guffaws at herself. I tell her no. Don’t go.
We have these conversations almost weekly. Gen comes in and flops down in the maroon chair by my desk. She usually gives me a quick hug but more often than not, she is talking before I can even look up from my computer. She is not my student anymore, but I love that she still comes by to confide in me.
Sometimes she shows me pictures and videos of her little brother Timmy. Once she complained about a guy who broke up with her via text. She laughed at his stupidity. I laughed too. Gen is beautiful and smart and so vivacious, she can’t walk more than three feet in any direction without someone talking to her. Boys are stupid. I sound like a big sister and not an English professor.
Our last face-to-face conversation, I am in a hurry to get her out of there. I have a class in thirty minutes that I haven’t yet prepped for. Don’t go to APU, I keep saying. Stay here. You don’t want to start your life in debt. Private school is debt. She smiles and says that she’s been here—at Chaffey—too long. She needs to move on. Plus, what would we do without you? I say it as a parting gift because I know that I have class and I am unprepared and sometimes I wish I didn’t have so many students who seek my counsel. She leans over my desk and hugs me. Don’t go, I say and we both chuckle because we both know Gen will do whatever she wants. She may ask my advice, but that doesn’t mean she’ll take it. She is twenty-one.
I scream as soon as I am back on the highway after dropping off my kids at school. It is the first time I am alone all morning. Genevieve is dead.
I cry louder than I have in a long, long time. There are so many tears, I veer the car into a turnout and sob. After a while, I stop and listen for her laughter. My favorite laugh—the one where she laughs at herself for a cluck or two and touches her chest in a dramatic fashion. The one where her eyes burn gold.
When I get home, I hike back into the mountains and cry and until I am certain I am devoid of tears. Later, I shower and I cry. Much, much later, I cry into my pillow so my kids can’t hear me.
I have cried a hundred times this week. I can’t open my Facebook without seeing Gen’s pictures come up in my feed. I can’t choke out her name without falling apart. I can’t bear to feel the weight of the world without her effervescence. I will be forever looking for her smile in a crowd of students and waiting to hear her laugh springing up from around the corner. But the enormity of her death will not fully hit me until I go back to work in August and she is not in my office crossed-legged and giddy with summer vacation stories that she will never live.
- Wednesday, May 28, 2014 2:52 P.M.
The school bell rings, and my son wraps his thin arms around my waist. He says, I’m sorry you’re sad, Mom. They know about Genevieve; they know I am devastated. I still love you, he says. I know, silly, I say. I muss his gold hair. I wipe the tears running down my neck as we walk back to the car. I am so full of love and tears. But mostly love.