We've had a few stories in the past couple of weeks about how we first started to write. I decided that I felt like telling my story this week. But I have to warn you, it's really, really depressing.
I did do some writing as a kid, for Young Author's Faire, and on my own. But apart from school assignments, I never finished a story until I was 16 years old. It was all because of one person. I'll use her nickname, Rei, instead of her real name.
Rei and I met when she was freshman and I was a sophomore. Sitting together in Biology class, we discovered a shared love of dark fiction, especially everything having to do with vampires, from L.J. Smith to early Laurell K. Hamilton. And yes, this is why vampire stories irritate me now, because I read far too many of them as a teenager, and now I'm entirely sick of the trope.
But I was far from that at sixteen. Rei and I would sometimes talk about how awesome it would be to live in a world where we could fight monsters and demons and be heroines. We were both extremely dramatic and overly imaginative. And so, just for fun, I wrote a story with the two of us as vampire slayers. And yes, we had our own vampire boyfriends.
I still have that notebook. The story is full of clichés and terrible prose, but Rei loved it. We were forever talking about sequels, and planning and joking all through the rest of high school. She was a fantastic writer too, much better than I was.
I didn't entirely lose touch with Rei after I graduated. We talked on the phone every so often. Our conversations could range toward dark and very angsty. We each had very strict parents, and felt trapped in our lives , though me less so because I was in college, but it's amazing how trapped you can feel when you're eighteen. All of that seems so unnecessary now, now that I know how quickly and easily freedom can come, if you want it, if you're willing to fight for it. But when you're a teenager, some things can seem impossible, like there will never be any escape.
Looking back on those later conversations, what she'd do should have been obvious. After, none of her friends could say we were surprised.
I found out between classes. She sent us all an email saying goodbye. It was the day before her eighteenth birthday.
It's hard to quantify the impact this had on my life. I'd had important people in my life die before. But this was different, her choice to take her own life was something I couldn’t understand, even after I learned a few more of her reasons. I think the hardest part was feeling that this should have been something I had guessed, something I should have been able to stop. Long after I realized that there was nothing I could have done, I'd still dream that I could go back in time and save her, that I could convince her to live. It was too much to handle. I didn't know what to do with my grief.
And then, I started to write.
Writing became my lifeline. It was my way of taking these dark and awful feelings and making them into something solid. Something that could be beautiful. Even after I finally became accustomed to her loss, I kept on writing.
For all the things I have to thank Rei for, all the memories and the books and the imagination she encouraged in me, there's also this – my very first publication (a poem), and thus the confidence that my writing might be something worth pursuing.
I miss you, Rei. And I'm still waiting for my postcard.
But you were
*(first published in the Santa Clara Review)