She smoked menthols. Newports, I think, but they might have been Newport Lights, or 100s. It’s been almost four years, and these details have faded away.
She liked to wear black, but she had this tan, plaid skirt that she wore a lot. It looked good on her, but everything did. I loved how she did her makeup: dark eye shadow against pale foundation. It made those dark eyes stand out, but even on sleepy mornings, makeup free, long hair a mess, yawning and staggering out of bed in her Pac-Man pajamas that said “Eat Me,” her eyes always stood out. Maybe it was an illusion because I loved her so, but I don’t think it was. She was real, and her love held me together at a time when I was crumbling apart.
Tomorrow is Valerie’s birthday, and she will not be around for it. Val died in January of 2013. She is forever 35. She will not grow old like me. She will not grow old with me. She is permanently young in my memories, getting smaller in my rear view, details fading away.
But I know that she smoked menthols.
I know that I’ve written about how Valerie and I met, and how wonderful she was in so many ways. Even her flaws made me love her more. I’ve written about how brilliant a writer she was, and how I collected her published stories into an anthology to honor her. I’ve written about her selflessness and her dedication to her students. I’ve written about her punk rock heart.
That heart beats in another person’s chest. She donated it, and it’s keeping someone else alive.
I wonder if he feels her, if he’s suddenly more badass than he thought possible.
Have I written about how she loved shrimp scampi and chicken caesar salad, but lived on frozen food? Have I written about the little half-hop she’d do when she was happy? Have I written about the poems and quotes that she would print out and tape to her walls? Her fear of spiders? Her love of making mix CDs? The tons of fan fiction that she wrote that’s now lost because her website is gone? The giant Michigan J. Frog stuffy that sat in the corner of her bedroom? The water bottle she was never without? Her action figure collection, which is now joined with mine?
Have I written that it’s becoming a haze of feelings and flickers of memories, of “I think it was like this” or “I think that’s how it happened?” I have to write all of this down, because I’m forgetting everything. and if I don’t record these details now, will they still exist?
But I know that she smoked menthols. And I know that I loved her.
Happy birthday, Val.