She was born in Sweden in April of 1979, the second child of teenage parents. She already had an older sister, five years older than her. Two years after her, she became a big sister to fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. Her life, according to her, was idyllic and wonderful and perfect and beautiful. She had parents who sang songs and loved each other and their children hungrily. It must have been heaven.
Things changed. Her parents died. There were no other family members. She and her siblings were shipped off to an orphanage. The twins were separated. One of them died of a broken heart. She and her older sister were left alone, to fend for themselves.
She claimed to be a child prostitute in Europe until finally, a kind man came along and took pity on her and her sister and brought them to the states, where her sister died of leukemia. The man turned out not to be as kind as she had originally thought, as he ended up raping her and leaving her pregnant at the age of twelve.
Her life sounds like the plot of a Judith Krantz novel with a bit of Shirley Conran’s Lace thrown in for good measure. I never knew how much was true and how much wasn’t, but she pulled me into her life all the same.
I met her when I was eighteen years old. She had recently stolen my first boyfriend right out from under my nose, and I was bitter and angry. I made what my parents told me was a “stupid decision” and chose to meet the two of them downtown in January of 1997. I sat upstairs at the bus plaza and waited for the two of them to come up the escalator, and when I saw her, I stopped dead in my tracks.
She was beautiful. Ethereal. Her long blonde hair flowed down her back, and her eyes were crystal blue. She was dressed in a long grey cloak that made her look like Maid Marian, and as she approached me, she held out a letter in a parchment envelope, my name written beautifully across the front in quill pen.
The three of us walked through the park. We attempted to push him into puddles. We stopped at Thomas Hammer for coffee and we talked all afternoon. Mostly she and I did. It was unexpected and it was unnatural and it was more than a little bit weird, but I had made a friend that day.
Eventually, she began to woo me with stories, whether true (unlikely) or false (highly possible) doesn’t matter.
She casually tossed off the “fact” that she had once had an affair with *insert name of famous Broadway composer who made a musical based off The Book Of Practical Cats* before he married “insert name of famous diva with a lovely soprano voice who Famous Broadway Composer cast in most of his shows” because he loves “beautiful women named Sarah”.
Supposedly the kind hearted man who adopted her in Europe was a well-known American murderer. (She never told me which one.)
She supposedly pet-napped the cat of a former friend turned arch nemesis and sent it to the Oregon Ballet Company, because every ballet company needs a cat.
Once, she cut off the cock of a man who wronged her and threw it off the Monroe Street Bridge while he groveled at her feet and begged for mercy.
I loved her.
I loved her for her bravery, for her ballsy attitude towards life, for the way that she faced everything head on and took no prisoners.
And throughout our friendship, she taught me things about myself, things I didn’t even know existed.
Corrie, my darling, she wrote me once, I so envy you. I know that you don’t believe me, but let me tell you why. You are the kind of woman that men want to marry. They want women like you to be mothers to their children. But to them I am nothing but a whore, only good enough to be their mistress. You have something I will never have. I envy you that, dear girl. I envy you that.
I loved her with that passion that only a teenage girl can possess. I loved her for taking me downtown and for giving me the idea of to use our spare change to call people we didn’t like and then scream at them when they answered. I loved her for her letters, typed up on a word processor (she was fervently anti-computer and preferred to write with scroll pen if she could) with the cursive typeface, and the sealing wax used on them. I loved her for how she had the balls to shake her boobs at men who screamed at her from passing cars. I loved her, quite simply, for loving me.
And she loved me for loving her in the same way.
One day, with a few thoughtless words, I ruined it all.
She was at Odyssey, a local GLBT youth group when she called me at home on a Saturday night. I was curled up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, watching Imitation Of Life on public television when the phone rang.
“I have something to tell you,” she said, her accent as purely sexy as it was the day I met her. “I know it’s stupid, but please hear me out.”
Susan Kohner was walking around, talking in an exaggerated Southern accent about how she had just “fray’d up a mess o’crawdads”.
“I love you,” she let go. “I love you, dammit. I know it’s stupid, and I know you’re straight, and I know that you don’t love me, at least not like that. I never get crushes on the girly femme girls, and I never get crushes on straight girls. But I love you, dammit, and I had to tell you. Now you know.”
I reacted the way that any straight-laced, right-wing conservative Christian girl would when her best friend confessed that she was in love with her.
And it was wrong.
“You’re sick!” I spat out. “You’re sick and deviant and disgusting! Homosexuality is a SIN! You’re going to hell for being gay.”
I heard her inhale deeply, and I heard the choke in her voice.
“I thought you were different,” she said through a voice thick with tears. “But you’re just the same as everyone else.”
The dial tone I heard in my ear was quite possibly one of the loudest I’ve ever heard in my life, maybe because I knew everything that lay behind it.
Maybe, just maybe, if I’d been older, if I’d been wiser, if I’d been raised by parents who hadn’t been so staunchly against homosexuality, if I’d been just a little bit more open-minded, I could have told her that I loved her too. Maybe she and I would have fallen in love, maybe we would have left town together and bought a cozy little house in California with a big picture window that looks out over a tree-lined street. Maybe things might have been different, if that were the case.
That wasn't the case.
And they weren't different.
And that night, she killed herself.
Because I didn’t love her back.
The call came the next morning from her mother. “She killed herself last night,” she said, her voice sharp and cold.
Because of what you said to her hung unspoken in the air.
She always told me that if she really wanted to disappear from this world, she’d know exactly how to do it. No one would be able to find her, and she’d vanish just as quickly as she appeared. No one would even miss her. One minute she’d be there and the next, she’d be gone. A brush of cold air against your cheek, the feel of someone brushing against your skin and then disappearing only a moment later, so quickly that it was almost as if they were never there at all.
I still miss her.
That is one thing which will never change.
Wherever she is, I hope she found her peace.
And I love you too...wherever you are.