Writer’s Name: JC Gardner
In the wee hours of the night in September 2003, a phone call rocked my world while I slept in my husband’s arms. My friend’s oldest daughter was on the other line with news that her mother, my friend Vicki, had suddenly passed away. I only had two childhood best friends, both of them my bridesmaids, and now one of them was gone. I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.
Vicki and I grew up together in Queens, New York. We ended up going to high school in Brooklyn, which was no easy feat. The commute from Queens would have been unbearable without her by my side. Me, the tall, lanky shy type, was always in the shadow of Vicki, the vivacious, bold, funny girl who could have you laughing out loud, no matter what your circumstances. Through all the years of knowing each other, we never had a harsh word or disagreement.
For all of Vicki’s great attributes, she was terrible at keeping in touch. When I moved to Maryland, it made it that more difficult. I was always the one trying my hardest to keep the lines of communication open. When we would chat, it would be for hours, with us cracking up at one another, going down memory lane. On my trips to New York, I made it a priority to see her but this was not reciprocated.
In August of 2003, I was in New York. I went to the old neighborhood, but I did not want to see Vicki. It had been a year since we had spoken, the longest time period that had ever elapsed for us not talking. Of course, it was because I had not initiated the call. As I stood on my old block, my husband asked if we were going to see Vicki. I said we weren’t. Wasn’t I going to at least call her? No. I was too busy fussing her out, my head and neck doing all kinds of gyrations like a poisonous snake. When we drove on the beltway, I felt triumphant driving right pass her exit. See how it feels, I thought to myself.
It bothered me like crazy to behave that way. It went against everything in my spiritual being. Do the right thing -- that’s me all the time. But this time, I went against the tide. I tried to get some sort of revenge and self-satisfaction. I thought I was proving a point, except she didn’t know it.
That horrid night, I sat screaming at the top of my lungs near hysteria. My husband was very sympathetic and tried to soothe me with comments that sounded like Vicki and I had no longer been good friends. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We may not have spoken in a year, but there was not a week that passed that I did not think of Vicki. It did not matter that she did not call me because I knew she was just a phone call away. I would have called eventually because that was my nature. And now she was dead at the age of thirty-nine from a heart attack on her husband’s birthday.
Her funeral seemed surreal. It was jam-packed with friends and loved ones. Her husband insisted he and I say goodbye together and that was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. We mourned and celebrated her short life and afterwards we went to her home, the home I refused to visit a month before. I walked through the rooms that had Vicki written all over them and regretted that August summer day.
When I returned home, I was overcome with guilt. I could barely talk about her without breaking down. She had been sick on and off that year and I didn’t know it. How could I know since I was too good to pick up the phone? I would almost do anything for an opportunity to talk to her again. And while I will always have memories of her and of our time together, there will forever be an empty space in my heart.