She always had a better memory than me. She was better than me in so many ways, really – she was so talented, incredibly intelligent, and so very strong – but I was the fortunate one, somehow. I have lived such a happy and lucky life, while she struggled every single step of the way for everything. I don’t know, in this moment, if that is simply my perception or if it’s the truth. It’s my truth, I suppose. My perception is my reality, as I’ve said time and again and always, always believed.
I’m ashamed that I’m the one left behind to tell the story because she would have told it so much more accurately and with vivid, truthful details. She would remember names and dates and places, and all I have is a fuzzy maybe-memory of some of our experiences together.
And I’m a terrible friend, by the way. I always have been. Not just to Joy, but to everyone. I would like to be a good friend, but I’m so overprotective of my heart, and I am too afraid. I don’t want to let anyone in, not really, because it only ever ends in hurt.
Case in point: Joy.
What a ridiculous dichotomy, her name and her fate. I’m angry, if I’m going to tell the truth. I’m furious at her parents, at her siblings, at the congregation, at her ex-husband who destroyed her just as she was finally finding her way. How dare you, you bastards? All of you. You’re all awful, heartless human beings. I include myself here.
I don’t even know if I mean that, I just know that I don’t understand why this happened to her. Why she was shunned instead of loved, why she was labeled and shoved aside. Why everyone, including myself, stepped back from her and watched from a distance. She was a ring of fire, she really was. When my phone would ring and it was her, I tiptoed into our conversation with a sense of dread every single time. Always, there would be something heartbreaking. It was hard to be her friend, but I always loved her, and those conversations always eventually ended with me letting down my guard and loving her back. But it was difficult, and it was scary. She did crazy things, she took terrifying chances, and she bucked the system while trying to fit in. She made no sense. She was beautiful and messy, and I loved her. I love her still. I wish she was here and healthy and happy.
There is some relief in knowing that she is free from the constant rejection and heartache. But I wish it was different. I wish she hadn’t had to try so hard in every single relationship. I wish she had known normal. I wish she had known acceptance and appreciation. I wish she had a tenth of the good fortune that I’ve had.
I have to stop asking why I have been so lucky while she was so challenged. I have to stop asking for any kind of an answer. It isn’t mine to know. It wasn’t my battle. It wasn’t my life.
I have to accept that she is gone, that she knew I loved her in the best way I could, that she has peace that she has never, ever known before. I have to believe she is okay.