Letter #2: CZ

I remember, of course, your red hair and freckles. I remember you were the first person I’d encountered to experience real tragedy. Whether your mother or father died of brain cancer, I can’t recall. One of them did. What I find remarkable in retrospect is our lack of sorrow. None of us, your peers, your classmates, felt pity or empathy for you. Rather, we took it merely as a fact among facts. This recollection—that of the absence of feeling—clarifies for me an aspect of childhood I tend to overlook: depth of feeling. Actually, I remember! It was your mother. I have a faint image of your mother with a wrap around her head, and features that seemed unnaturally gaunt. I knew she was ‘sick’—this was the euphemism our parents and teachers used for dying—but I didn’t realize how serious it was, and how ruinous that probably was in your life.

I remember in either fourth or fifth grade we had the same shoe size. We realized together the difference in sizing—how a women’s nine was equivalent to a men’s eight. This might not even be correct, but we enjoyed having solved this peculiarity. Your shoes were bulky basketball shoes. So were mine. I remember the shape of your cheeks, round, and your voice, which was low for girls our age. And it had a slight rasp to it, your voice, Christina.

I remember in fifth grade, having learned about puberty via The Video, and being given a stick of Old Spice deodorant, a rumor spread that you’d already ‘gotten it,’ quote unquote. I thought this meant breasts, or a training bra. Which was strange, because you were still relatively flat chested.

Later, in high school, our social circles occasionally overlapped. The people I knew least in the widest orbits of my circle knew you best. As a result we attended the same parties, or big sporting weekend afternoons in parks, but never spent time in the intimacy of basements on weekdays, never rode in the same vehicles. I remember in these moments of overlap you and I never acknowledged one another. Never even a ‘hello.’ We had been friendly in elementary school, almost friends, at times, so I found it odd how we seemed to deny it. We wouldn’t even make eye contact. You became a stranger.