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Remembering

It was not so long ago that Timothy called me and I listened.

The first thing I did was blaspheme. The next was to ask a Christian to pray. I wasn’t sure how far my prayers would go, but I believed that, coming from someone else if not me, it would avail. I still prayed, though, or I tried.

After that it was plans and orders – that was one way I knew to get by. Later I found that there were two orders of pizza, which was too much for our stomachs, but I’d wanted people to eat.

After the conference I had a seat at the table in the dining hall with my friends.

After this it was time for statements.

*

To write about what I wrote has been the hardest part of this account, because of the memory of rehearsal. I am sure that almost from the moment I heard the news that I would have been rehearsing the words to say. If this was what I did, then did I feel what I wrote I felt?

I find no easy answer, but I’ve chosen to believe that neither was beyond me. In the communication of the facts, there was the consideration of propriety, the calculation of sentiment, the weighing of words. At the same time, there was grief, although for most of the night and for most of the following days, it was put mostly on hold.

In remembering this, three things helped to anchor me. The first was being able to admit what I felt: I am grateful I found someone I could talk to about the guilt and resentment, which were never far away from the grief. The second thing was that there were replies to our emails that night. If you wrote back to Tim, the MC, or me, thank you. The third was reading what I’d managed to get down on paper (for this post) by this point. I saw that I remembered everything about that night – at least enough to have made the remembering a struggle – and not just some things.

One precious realization that I had from this remembering was that I was never left alone, and that the remembering would have been so much harder if I had been. The statements were difficult to remember, I think, partly because the calculations and weighings I remember could not have been other than mine. The rest is easier.

*

We were writing in Chatterbox. We stayed for a while – at the time I probably didn’t have any idea about what to do beyond reading and responding. After some time we dispersed, to different people and places.

Post-dispersal, I found myself in a new ‘we’. What I remember is how some of us were keeping in mind those others of us whom we should try to talk to. We went to make our calls – although I didn’t really have one to make. I remember not wanting to have to manage doing nothing, and so I ended up going with someone else. While trailing said friend on the way somewhere I remember half-swerving into a white column in the courtyard.

After we’d called on those it seemed we should call on, and it wasn’t clear what should be done next, I walked out for food and beer. I telephoned for veggies in oyster sauce and some fried rice, and went to collect.

Some time later the eaters and drinkers were gathering outside the glass Chatterbox. At some point while waiting, I joined some of the Christians for prayer in a room in the learning block. I arrived about in time to close the prayer. After that I went back to food and drink. At some point we greeted a passing professor and offered him a bottle, which was declined (not without regret).

Following our repast, I went back to reading and responding for a bit, prompted solely by the access afforded by my computer. Shortly after, I decided I wanted a walk, and later walked with a friend down West Coast Highway. We met a familiar late-night runner on the way.

I got another drink at the convenience store there (it sells until 3 a.m.), consumed it not long after returning to the RC, and went to bed not long after that.

*

I woke up late the next day, and visited the office with some initial questions about the yet-to-be-conceived memorial. In my mind the time following went by quite quickly. I made more plans and calls. I slept some. I hugged someone while waiting at the exit of an MRT station. I wrote papers. I watched the sunrise while at Starbucks on Town Green. My prof gave me an extension and told me to sleep.

On one of the following days I laid out candles and things. I’d gathered the items in the afternoon (someone had helped me with purchasing the items), and in the evening after dinner I found myself back outside, surveying the courtyard and figuring out how to do. The pause after things were figured and set afforded something like contemplation and resolve. This would be the closest I would come, for a long time, to a surrender to the loss.

We had the memorial. Some of Peter’s friends had prepared books and things, and some of Peter’s friends spoke. I remember briefly speaking with some of the professors after the memorial.

*

After the memorial, it was a long time before I tried to remember again. In the week following, I finally turned in my term papers, then sat two exams. I slept for two days.

In the middle of June, there was a death in the family. I played the keyboard at the wake at the void deck. It was hazy that week.

Back to freshman orientation. Prepare for elections. Leave the country.

*

The next time I felt grief I was unprepared, and (I felt) almost forgetful. For many of the times after, I’d walk to Bridge Square in Northfield and watch the river where I could hear it pour.

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