<html><font face=courier new>I think she was just pretending to have cancer,</font></html> one of your friends tells you, months later.\n\nYou are forever haunted by the vision of her obscuring the [[trach hole|hole]] in her neck with a gothic lolita collar.\n
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\nIt's fucking surreal.\n\nHer deviantART page still exists. So does all the posts she ever made on the writing forum the both of you frequented. Her AIM screen name says she hasn't been online in a countless number of days, but it still exists. Sometimes you torture yourself by scrolling through everything she's ever drawn, all the pictures she ever took of herself. \n\nYou think it's fucked up how pictures of dead people can exist on the Internet, floating. Aimless. \n\nYou're staring at [[a ghost|ghosts]].\n
<html><font face="courier new">Trust me, I know. \n<p>\nIt's hard, only seeing your partner a few times a year. Things are gonna be hard when you two are going through problems and you can't cuddle and make up. And don't get me started on how easy it can be to be jealous in an LDR. \n\nFinancially, emotionally... LDRs are stressful.</font></html>\n\nWell, that's not why you're [[worried|worried]] about confessing.\n
You tell her you won't have much time to write with her now. \n\nShe says she [[understands|understands]].
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\n\nShe'll never write a sex scene with you. \n\nYou're itching to, because your characters have so much chemistry and you want to get better at the craft. It's purely for the sake of being a better writer, you're sure, and it's nothing to do with how you feel. \n\nBut she won't. Fade to black, she insists. She writes smut with everyone else but you. Sometimes it makes you inconceivably angry; other times, you are atrociously apathetic. \n\nBut most times, you're [[jealous|jealous]] of all her other partners.\n
//That's a shitty way to phrase things: "I've gotten over it." What I really mean is, I've forgiven myself. I just hope you forgive me too. \n\nThe both of us used to laugh about heaven, but I really hope you're in a better place. When I left you, you were in a lot of pain. I'll never know if it ever got better before it worsened enough to kill you. \n\nI hope that in abstract space between life and death, you were able to find a sense of [[relief|relief]].//
It mentioned all the family she left behind, when really, it was the other way around. It mentioned her mother and father without noting that they had never played a part in her life. It mentioned her grandparents without saying that they'd always resented having to take care of her, of having a child "dumped" on them by her mother. \n\nIt mentioned her aunt and uncle, who, after the cancer set in, resented having to pay for her treatment.\n\n"The family would like to thank her best friend, Miranda," the obituary said. \n\nIt did not mention a [[boyfriend|mention]].\n
She ends up modeling her newer dresses for you: ones that fit her frame. This was before you understood how you felt about her, so you don't appreciate the moment as much as you would have later on. \n\nShe dons one of her wigs - red, the color of pomegranates, fire trucks, of Japan's rising sun - and laces up her gothic lolita dress. The dress comes with a collar, which she nonchalantly laces up over her trach hole.\n\n"How do I look?" She was always seeking your approval.\n\nYou give her a big [[grin|grin]]. \n
//I think you would be proud of me now. \n\nI took your advice. I haven't studied abroad, but I've been getting serious about my future. I've done a lot of internships, and there are a lot of professors that I've come to know that will write me recommendation letters. \n\nI'm finally comfortable with my [[career|career]] path. //
<html><font face="courier new">If you're gonna confess to her, just know: being in a long distance relationship is a lot of hard work.</font></html>\n\n[[You know.|know]]\n\n\n
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\nIt's summer, and all she has to look forward to are the stories you share. The worlds you've built, the plots you've created with her: they're far from original, and you've written better in terms of quality of content, but they're the most fun you've had with the craft, nonetheless. \n\nBecause you know she's nothing else to do but roleplay with you, whenever she texts you, begging for your response to a story, you will abandon your post - you will drop everything - to be at her [[beck and call|beck]]. \n
//I've grown up a lot, and I'm still doing what I love: telling [[stories|stories]], and writing about the things that are most important to me.//
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\nAnother year later, you're cleaning out your hard drive, deleting files you don't need. Amidst your junk, you find a video file, titled: Lilium.avi. \n\nOpening it, you find a file that she'd sent you once: a recording of her playing the flute for you, your favorite song. This time, she played it perfectly. In this video, she is wearing a wig, but you can see her trach hole clearly again. \n\nWhen the video ends, she smiles, waves, and blows you a [[kiss|kiss]].
Whoever he is, you hate him. \n\nWhoever he is, he doesn't understand anything about her. He doesn't appreciate her whimsy, her spontaneity, her ability to write a plot twist and having you hanging at the edge of your seat. \n\nA faceless man becomes your greatest enemy, and being aware of his presence, aware of the fact that they are partners, that he is close to her in a way that you can never be, [[steams|steams]] you on the inside.
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\nOnce, she made the mistake of talking with you about sex. \n\nShe mentions how it'll hurt the first time, but after that, it'll feel really good. She talks about her first time. She talks about not being able to enjoy sex with her boyfriend anymore. She talks about you, and can't remember ever being a virgin. \n\nShe asks whether you'd like your [[first time|first]] to be with a boy or a girl.
Slowly, you begin to think that you can [[live|live]] without her.
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The obituary mentions a lot of useless things, like the fact that she loved country music and how much she adored her dog. \n\nIt doesn't mention her ability to weave words like a sorceress weaves spells. It doesn't mention she would've given anything to be able to play kendo again, or how she knew all the songs by the K-Pop band SUPER Junior by heart. \n\nIt doesn't mention anything about how sometime she'd spend nights laying awake on her back looking out of her window, wishing she were well enough to go outside. \n\nIt didn't mention that she played the flute, and even if she wasn't the best at it, her playing could [[move you|move]] to tears.
//I know you were needy because you didn't have anyone else to talk to and I'm sorry. \n\nI'm sorry for being jealous about your boyfriend. It was stupid, I know, but I fell for you when you probably didn't feel the same way. Maybe you just had a flirty personality, I don't know. I'll never know. I should've talked with you about it, but I didn't, and now I'll never know. \n\nThat fucked me up too. \n\nBut I've gotten [[over it|over]].//
So you tell her to fuck off. \n\nYou don't [[word|word]] it like that, though.
//I know I'll be okay.//
You don't want to admit it, but you can't stand her if you can't be with her. \n\nOr rather, you hate the idea of not being able to be with her. Or rather, to be honest, you're not sure how finding out she has a boyfriend changes everything, but the truth of it is: it does. \n\nFor some reason, all the quirks that you accepted about her before become intolerable. One day, you Google "how to stop one person from texting you" and immediately feel guilty about it. \n\nSometimes you just don't feel like Skyping with her, and that ruins her entire evening. She'll pull guilt trips, like, "But I've been looking forward to this all day!" \n\nYou bite back, and ask why she doesn't just talk to her [[boyfriend|talk]] instead.
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\n\nWhen they prescribe her medical marijuana for her chronic pain, she doesn't smoke it until you come online and turn on Skype. \n\n"You won't think I'm a pothead or anything if I smoke this, will you?" she asks. \n\nYou assure her that you won't. When she lights up, inhales, the coughing kills you, makes your heart bleed for her. It's a coughing fit like you've never heard: scratchy, high-pitched, and her entire body rocks and shakes as she does it. \n\nHer hand covers her trach hole, but lightly, as if she is afraid to touch it, and she nearly [[drops|drops]] her smoke.
But sometimes, she does brag about it. \n\nNot only had she been captain of her kendo team - she had formed it, even though she'd never done kendo in her life before college. She once had absolutely no idea what she really wanted to do after college, so she had taken up archeology because it sounded impressive. She'd brag to her family and friends at home about her career path and they'd look at her with wide eyes, beaming grins.\n\nHer internships had taken her to Greece, to France, and to modern-day Rome, and she'd dug up things which were yet to be classified. \n\nShe was still waiting on updates about her digs from her professors, despite the digs taking place [[years ago|years ago]].
Quietly, you close out the Meebo tab. You don't [[look back|look]].\n\n
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\nWhen you have responsibilities at university, you don't really have time for her incessant texts, and they get in the way of your job. \n\nAs a reporter, you are constantly awaiting a text from either your editor in chief, sources you need to interview, or fellow reporters who might need help with a story. You find solace in their company, and having flesh-and-blood friends does wonders for your self-esteem, but not having her texts answered immediately makes her sour when you come home to her on Skype. \n\nYou explain that you were busy. She understands, but [[not really|really]].
You've always had a worse immune system than most. \n\nSince you were little, getting sick was a monthly death sentence, one that would devastate any other plans you had for the next three weeks. She understands this, but a part of you wonders if she thinks you're being a [[spoiled|jealous]] baby when you refuse to come online.
//I [[think|thinking]] I'll be okay.//
Why would it? \n\nThey had not known of you. \n\nYou had told her to fuck off. \n\nYou hadn't been involved in her life in the past two years. \n\nYou sat, judging all who had been able to attend her funeral, who had been with her in her last days, who had been able to send her off. But that anger quickly bubbles over and subsides, and is replaced with tears that prick you, like needles against your pupils: unwarranted, unwanted, [[unnecessary|unnecessary]].
"Hey," she suggests. "Let's make the house catch on fire. Then my character - stay with me - my character goes blind in the ensuing chaos. Your character breaks both of his legs."\n\n"Does that mean they can't fuck anymore?"\n\n"You are ridiculous. Yeah, maybe? I don't know. What do you think?"\n\n"Not good enough. Maybe my character just straight up dies. But he has nine lives, so that's okay. He comes back and he's haunted by the memories of his death. Maybe your character wanders around thinking he's dead for a while or something...? Maybe she tries to bury him. That'd be wicked."\n\n"How is a newly blind woman going to bury a 180 pound man?"\n\n"We'll [[figure it out|figure]]!"\n
The thought makes you feel nauseous. \n\nIt wouldn't be the first time you woke up in a cold [[sweat|sweat]], dry heaving.
Abruptly, you turn the Skype camera off. \n\nYour [[tears|tears]] taste like sea salt and brimstone.
One day, you would finally ask her about the person she lived with. You knew she had a roommate, but you didn't think much of them: they were a nonfactor in everything regarding your feelings. \n\n"Oh, my [[boyfriend|boyfriend]]? He's been taking care of me," she said with a shrug. "Not much to it."\n
You click over to the Meebo tab and notice she is typing nonstop again. She is talking about all the responses you owe her to the stories you're writing with her, and how she wishes it was summer again. \n\nYou click over to a clean Google Doc and carefully write out your response to her: about how you want to end it, about how you don't think you should talk to her anymore. It reads like a breakup letter when she is only your friend, and remembering that fucks you up even more. \n\nThe article is due in two hours and you don't have time to be writing all of this. And that pisses you off even more. Until you snap completely and [[send her everything|everything]] you've written in that Google Doc.
"But that's not my life anymore," she'd remind you. \n\nYet she checked her emails for [[updates|updates]] on those digs every day.
You had a few friends on that forum, of course: the admins. Both queer ladies, both eager feminists; you had more in common than you had with anyone else in your "real life." When the admins broke up, you were caught in the middle, but ultimately, made a choice. \n\nIn the end, you would eventually become estranged from both of them. Sometimes you would text them when you remembered them, but would end up [[bitter|work]] that it would never be the same between you all again.\n\n
<html> <center><img src="http://i.imgur.com/tCi4Zli.png">\nby Kimberly DeLande</center></html>\n\n[[>>|Trust me]]
She's there for you as you transition from high school into college. \n\nShe answers questions like, "Will I have less friends because I'm a commuter?" and "Should I be worried about going into a major that won't make a lot of money?" and "Do you think I'm making the wrong choice by not joining a sorority?" She gives you tips like: join clubs, buddy up to professors so you can get references from them later on, and don't rule out studying abroad. \n\nShe tells you to make friends, but not to [[forget|forget]] her while you're out there. \n\n
<html><font face=courier new>Have you told her yet?</font></html>\n\nNo, no. What happens if I confess? Do you think she'll feel the same way? \n\nOf course not. \n\nLife doesn't [[work|work]] like that.\n
<html><center>. . .</center></html>\n\n\n//Hey you,\n\nI'm sorry.\n\nI shouldn't have abandoned you. \n\nI shouldn't have been such a massive [[jerk|jerk]]. //
You distinctly remember being [[sick|sick]] for a week, too weak to even get out of bed and onto your computer, but you still have your phone with you. You check the forums and see that she is writing with some other smuck, and watch the thread spiral into an excuse to write dirty scenes with each other. You read the thread, picking it apart like a vulture, before throwing your phone across the room. \n\nThe battery pops out, and you're lucky that's all the [[damage|damage]] that sustains. \n\n
You tell her to fuck off using Meebo in the computer lounge at university while you are writing an article about an Italian film festival. \n\nYou are on the third paragraph and you're trying to listen to the audio recording of the interview you conducted today. You can barely hear the speaker because the sound of your phone beeping obstructed the audio, and your phone was beeping because she was texting you incessantly. \n\nSomething in you [[snaps|snaps]].
Two years later, you can't stop thinking about her again. \n\nYou Google her name. You did not do this in the comfort of your home, but again, from a computer in your university's computer lab. \n\nYou will come to [[regret|regret]] this.
<html><center> . . .</center></html>\n\nOut of boredom, you end up browsing her deviantART, and come across pictures of her before the big C. She had short, auburn hair back then, and was one of the few people you'll ever know who could rock a fedora. Her style had varied from vintage to classy to bohemian, but you were certain she could pull off any look. She looked good in lipstick of literally any color: black, purple, brown, yellow, bright, vibrant green.\n\nShe'd been the captain of her kendo team in college. She'd [[majored|majored]] in anthropology. \n
The truth is, she's mentioned him being her partner before, but it was in such vague terms that you completely brushed it off. \n\nBut now, the term "boyfriend" slices at your core, completely rewrites your reality. It forces you to admit something, to swallow an inconvenient truth. \n\nYou bite the bullet and chew it to bits, but [[hate|hate]] the taste.
You find her [[obituary|obituary]].
But she doesn't understand, not really. \n\nShe blows up your phone, wondering what you're doing and where you are. On the long bus ride home, you spend the entire time texting her, filling her in on your day, and that alleviates both her and your boredom. Her incessant need to be updated on your life does not bother you in the slightest. \n\nYou think maybe it's because she [[loves|loves]] you.
When you look back at the time you spent together, you'll tell your friends that she abandoned you. \n\nThis is a coping mechanism, because you can't stand to think that you were a complete jackass to her. In your mind, however, this was an acceptable course of action. She was interfering with your course work, with your potential career. \n\nYou didn't have the energy to Skype with her every day, like she demanded. Her spontaneity was both a boon and a curse, because one day, she'd be talking about the last anime she watched, but the next, she'd be talking about relationships, or love and life and loss and you wanted to scream and shout and tell her to shut the fuck up and that you loved her and she wasn't being fucking [[fair|fair]] about it.
She texts you nonstop all the way home. \n\nEventually, at [[3:04 a.m.|time]], she stops.
It did not mention [[you|you]].
//When I left you, I thought I'd never find someone who loves me, but I have. \n\nHe's amazing, and he's been so good to me, more than I can ever describe. \n\nI've finally realized that you were right. I am worth loving, and it is worth it to [[love|love]]. //
You met because you were both writers.\n\nYou met on a forum for roleplayers, where writers made characters and would write out little stories together.\n\nShe IM'd you out of the blue simply because you were writing together, but you didn't make a habit of keeping close to your roleplayer partners. Mechanical, they were only people to be used to satisfy your god complex ([[for the most part|mostly]]). \n\nBack then, all you cared about was controlling the lives of fictional people: torturing them for your own amusement. \n\nYou were a fucked up little [[fairy child|fairy]], high on creative fumes.\n\n
You lock yourself in the nearest bathroom stall, wrap your arms around your chest and [[cry|cry]].
<html><font face=courier new>Eh? What are you worried about?</font face></html>\n\nYou end up dropping the subject because you have absolutely no idea where to start. It's not the cancer that you're worried about, but the selfish idea that one day she'll lose the battle and leave you in the dust. It's not the distance you're worried about, because even though the idea of an LDR scares you, what scares you more is the idea of losing her. \n\nNo, what scares you is the thought of her smiling and shaking her head, rejecting your confession, one scraped out from the empty canvasses of your previously [[apathetic|apathetic]] heart.\n
You asked about everything: the kendo, the anthropology, her colorful selfies, and why she never talked about it.\n\n"What good would that do?" she asked. "That's not my life anymore. Just gotta focus on [[getting better|better]]."\n
Her Skype camera shuts off mid-coughing fit. \n\n"Sorry," she types. \n\n"Didn't think that would turn out so bad. I didn't want you to have to [[see|see]] that."\n
There are too many things her cancer has stolen from her. She has always been unabashedly vain, so her figure and her hair: those are the things she misses most. On Skype, she pulls out her collection of lolita dresses, lamenting over the fact that she was no longer able to fit into them. \n\n"I bought this one from Paris," she says, then laughs. "Well, on the Internet, but from a French website. Did you know I can read French? And some Japanese, and [[some Italian|some]]..."\n
Later, when you think back on her, you'll tell your friends that you were in a relationship. \n\nYou may as well have been. You were planning to visit her at her home, a million miles away. You saved up the money and everything: had it stored away in your savings, proudly, from a summer job you had worked. She was the first person in your entire life to ever call you cute, adorable, or even consider you desirable. \n\nThis was when you had a fat face and still had your high school muffin top. Either she was lying, or she meant it. \n\n//She may as well have loved you,// is the [[justification|meant]] behind your lies.
Eventually, you have to look at all the texts she sent you.\n\nEach one breaks your [[heart|heart]] all over again.
Kimberly DeLande
She [[grows|grows]] on you, because she's a fucked up little fairy child too. \n\n
Silent tears stream down her face. \n\nYou are a million miles away and can do [[nothing|nothing]] for her.
//The only reason I ever realized you had died was because I was trying to find some way to contact you again. I had wanted to apologize and I was too late. \n\nThe fact that you died and I didn't get to apologize fucked me up for a long time. That sounds selfish, I know. You're dead and I'm trying to apologize. I don't know how else to word it. \n\nMaybe I should be more tactful, but you know that's never been my [[style|style]].//
One day, you tell her to [[fuck off|off]].
The first time you ever saw her face, she put a flute to her lips and played [[Lilium|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn-JAkLCb78]] for you over Skype. She messed up on a few notes, but she didn't notice and you pretended not to. Instead, your eyes are diverted elsewhere: her balding head, her pale skin, and the trach hole in her neck. \n\nShe'd ask you, "How'd I do?"\n\nYou'd offer a [[weak|weak]] smile.\n