Death day

Today is Angie‘s death day, one year later. I don’t know what time it was or, really, even what happened except that she was hit by a car while trying to cross the street somewhere in Las Vegas and the driver left her there to die. To my knowledge, the culprit was never found.

I have some clippings from various internet news sites published shortly after the fact, ranging from the next day to the next week. They say things like, “A woman was killed when she was struck by a pickup truck late Saturday night as she tried to cross six lanes of traffic…” and “The woman died at the scene…” and “The truck could not [as opposed to did not?] stop and fled the scene after hitting the woman.” (Email me or leave a message below if you want sources.)

Yesterday, I visited her grave for the first time since she died. I’ll probably go back, but not any time soon. I might take one of her/my other friends if I’m asked, but otherwise, probably not for a while. It just hurt too much. I put it out of my mind for almost a year (I found out in late April last year), but visiting the grave site told me just how much I’d just blocked it out instead of sitting down and dealing with it.

I’m not Angie’s mother. I’m not her stepfather. I’m not her son. They have the greatest monopoly on grief over Angie’s death. And one year isn’t enough time to get over a loss like that. I’ve been told such pain doesn’t really go away; it just becomes an ache. But, I am her friend. Probably not a very good friend, at least not by the end, but most people have to take what they can get.

By the time she died, Angie and I weren’t speaking. We weren’t on bad terms or anything, but we had lost touch and only kept up through mutual friends. I’d heard she’d had a son and was living in Las Vegas. I don’t know if she ever asked about me or not. When I found out from Sara B. that she’d been killed by a hit-and-run driver, I was stunned. I wanted it to be a lie. I might not have called her and told her, but I did care.

Since she was also a friend of Angie’s and I thought she deserved to know, I girded my loins and called Alison’s house number. I left a rambling message, asking her to call me back if she wanted details about Angie’s funeral ceremony. When she returned my call, I gave her the information and rambled some more before she said, “Well, thank you for letting me know, but I think I already have plans for this Saturday.” I was stunned again. I knew Alison and I weren’t really on speaking terms—and not in the “we just lost touch” kind of way, either—but her standards of importance were so far different from mine that I couldn’t breathe for a moment. We said our goodbyes and hung up. (That was the last time I spoke with Alison.)

I didn’t attend Angie’s funeral since I was living in New York at the time and couldn’t make it back on such short notice, but my parents and sister graciously went in my place. Bunny said that most of the people who recognized them at all thought that she was me, though she thinks she corrected them. Angie was cremated and laid to rest in a cemetery grave with her father, who died in January 1985, before Angie was born.

My mother drove me out to the cemetery yesterday, but she stayed in the car while I paid my respects. I think she knew I needed some time alone. I’d gone into the flower shop and asked for “Something like that, but without anything blue in it” since I didn’t want my bouquet to look like it was raring to go for the Fourth of July when it’s not even the right time of year for that. My budget was modest, but the florist did right by me, something for which I’m grateful.

I regret missing the funeral because it feels as though, all this time, I’ve just assumed she’s still in Las Vegas somewhere. Having her birthday (April 5) and death day (today) in the same week hits pretty hard. I still, after an entire year, want her to be lying to me.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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