I’m cleaning out my inbox. It’s a normal thing for a Monday. I’m clicking through the list, responding to clients and sifting through the junk. I see a message from an app called Marco Polo. Is it an app? I don’t even know. I’ve never heard of it.

I get distracted by an email from an attorney who is being condescending and rude. It’s drafted to make me feel bad, or maybe to make me feel ignorant, or maybe just to remind the writer that she is better than me. It’s dumb. It’s embarrassingly transparent. It’s a total waste of time.

Instead, my focus shifts back to the Marco Polo message. It tells me I have a message in my inbox. I have a message from a friend, a girl I fell in to fast friendship with at cancer camp. The happy email exclaims that a new video is waiting for me from my friend.

Only, she died several months ago.

There is a buzzing in my ears as everything starts to slow down. Maybe it’s a prank or someone hacked her account. I didn’t know, but I needed to figure it out.

I fumbled with the computer. I didn’t know how to access the message. I download the app on my phone and watched as the pie slowly grew on the little image of a beach ball. It is painstakingly slow. Then it stops all together.

My associate comes in to ask me something. Or maybe she was telling me something? I don’t know. I’m not in the room.

After she leaves, I have to restart my phone to get the app to work. I go through layers of screens setting up my profile before I finally get to my inbox. I hesitate before clicking the link.

Once I do, her face comes onto my screen. She calls me “Montana,” my camp name. The word pierced my soul. She recorded the message a year and a half ago, but I was only made aware of it today.

In her message, she talks about coming to see me, planning a road trip that never happened. She confided that she had stopped treatment. She talked frankly about dying, knowing full well that her life would end soon.

A cloud comes over me. I try to move and I’m frozen. In my head, my voice tells my body to move. Nothing happens. I sit motionless for half an hour.

Somehow, I left my office and ended up in a parking lot. I don’t remember the drive. My neck and head hurt. I feel like I’ve been squeezed by a vice. There is a weight on my chest that is suffocating me, but I’m not panicked. I can’t talk, I can’t move, I just sit and stare.

There is too much in this moment, and yet, I don’t feel flooded. I don’t cry. I retreat inside myself. I bury myself under layers of hurt I didn’t even know existed.

I am numb.

For a long time I try to hold the work email and my sweet dead friend side by side. I feel like I don’t have a home in either place. I’m no longer dying but I haven’t fully rejoined the world either. I know too many things that won’t let me go back.

I want to turn it off, I want to leave this fully energized paralysis. I just can’t seem to compute what I’ve seen. My feelings don’t register. I know I tried to ignore her death. I know I’m paying for it now, with interest.

Writing is my lifeline. Somewhere in my brain I know I will move through this fog. I think the triteness of the email and the gravity of the video just blew a fuse in my brain. I couldn’t hold two such jarringly opposite intents at once.

I can’t make sense of a world where one woman makes a dying plea for connection and love while another does everything she can to avoid being seen. It seems to me that they are both hurting. One has just figured out how to make peace with her suffering.

I start to soften when I think on that hurt. I think about how we are all just great big balls of pain and joy, love and sorrow. The choice I have is how I want to move through the world knowing it.

As if there were any doubt, I choose connection and love. It’s just easier for me that way. I’m no good at jabbing emails and exercises in ego anyway. Life is just too damn short.

Give ‘Em Hell

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