Here’s a thought that has been repeating in my head all day today: “My friend is dead.”
The following are a bunch of words (completely inadequate) that amount to the best I can do to make sense of that bizarre fact:
Monica Van Laer and I have been friends since high school, which, for those of you keeping score at home, was a long fucking time ago. About 17 or 18 years. She was killed yesterday by her ex-boyfriend and I have spent the day crying and not knowing what to do. Earlier today, I gathered with some friends so that we could cry and not know what to do together. We looked at pictures and shared memories and laughed a little and still none of those things changed the inexplicable truth:
My friend is dead.
And, as if that’s not enough: my friend was murdered.
Christ, it gets worse: my friend was murdered by someone who has set foot in my home.
Let me tell you about my friend Monica. She was fucking awesome. Monica convinced me to act in a Christmas play my junior year of high school. I got to be Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and my love of theater was born out of that experience. She helped me learn to play a wind instrument (trombone at first, which didn’t work so well, and then clarinet which [let’s be totally honest] only worked slightly better) so I could join band my senior year because most of our friends were also in band. I am a better musician because I knew Monica. She was an insanely talented musician herself – she played the flute and the baritone sax. She could act, direct and stage manage and she never used her skill to make anyone else feel like shit about their own abilities.
Monica was the youngest person I knew who owned Pink Floyd’s entire discography – when we met, I thought their first album was Dark Side of the Moon. She insisted on making me listen to earlier cuts like “Fearless” and “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” (that’s a real song – Google that shit). For a high schooler in St. Helens, Oregon, pushing Ummagumma on her peers was a move of unbridled and audacious geekery.
When my sister got a heart transplant in 1997, Monica came with me to the hospital and spent the night there waiting with me and my family through the surgery. Monica, like my sister (who is also dead), had a huge heart and was always there for her friends. Monica, like my sister, was an amazingly strong, generous, kind and inspiring human being. I have watched all day as people I’ve never met have taken to Facebook to share their love for her and their astounded grief that her life should be cut short in such a brutal fashion. I know that, as word gets out, more people will share their love and gratitude for having known her.
She was a truly beautiful person who made life seem more beautiful – and she was also an incredibly goofy person who loved fart jokes and dumb humor. When we attended a production of Pirates of Penzance recently, Monica’s laughter at the repetition of the word “duty” (shared by me and all of our deeply immature and wonderful friends) threatened to disrupt the whole show. We laughed to the point that I started laughing about how funny we all thought “duty” was. (Say it out loud a few times. “Duty.”)
I am now a little too experienced with people I love dying young so I know that a thing people say when someone dies is that they will live on in our hearts. This is true as far as it goes and sounds very nice, but right now, my heart is completely broken. I tell people who get to know me a bit that the friends I met in high school literally saved my life; Monica was one of those friends and I am going to regret for the rest of my life that it was impossible to return the favor.
Monica, these words are useless and I’m going to stop trying to make them useful. Here are just a few more:
I miss you.
I love you.