It has been 29 days now since I last saw my friend Lauren. 29 days ago, we went out to the arcade in Sherwood along with my wife where we had a night of video games. That led to hanging out at my house where we had drinks and a wonderful night of just hanging out. Six days later, Lauren’s life was cut far too short. And here I am today.
I’ve waited to write this because I knew I wasn’t ready. My feelings were clouded by the immense grief that consumed me. I wanted to pay her tribute when I was ready and able to celebrate the life of my dear friend. I feel the time has come.
I’ve known Lauren since at least high school but I’m sure I met her earlier. In small towns you often do. Besides she was a friend of my brother’s which was likely where I first met her. Probably my first truly distinct memory of my friend was through the school play in 11th grade, where she acted alongside pretty much every major figure in high school I knew and I was stage manager.
I knew Lauren most closely through the school newspaper, a class that doubled as career education for me and social hour for many. Like me Lauren was a film buff, even working at the theater. She occasionally slid me into a movie or two actually. She knew her stuff too. We hung out several times after class, most notably hitting up a screening of Red Dragon.
We were close friends in this era. So it’s hard for me to admit that we lost contact during my college days. That frustrates me now but such is life. You want to hold onto your friends but you grow apart and lose contact.
At least you did before facebook. We chatted every now and then on Facebook. It was during one of these chats that Lauren pointed out that critics seemed to be daring audiences to enjoy Inception since it was too smart for them. She balked and suggested we go see it. Dare taken. So it was that we reunited for the first time in several years at the Breckenridge Village theater to see it. The experience of seeing my old friend was a joyous one. Lauren hadn’t changed a bit.
We never lost contact from there.
I have several happy stories from this time. When I stumbled onto a pass to see Scott Pilgrim vs The World 16 days early and for free that very night, Lauren was the one who got the call to get into Little Rock which she did. Lauren and I also hit up The Other Guys as well that summer. Rather inevitably, she joined me at the first film I took in at the gorgeous new Conway theater.
Then we decided to do a podcast. The Brutal Kind ran for 1 episodes or so. It was recorded when we could find the time. Regrettably I never managed much in the way of distribution but that wasn’t the point. It was two friends shooting the breeze on film. Nothing more or less.
At least it started as two. The day that we recorded the first cast, I made an ill-advised decision to call a girl I’d met online without her permission. Regardless, she agreed to go on a date. That led to several more. In time we inevitably met each other’s friends. When Lauren and Amanda met, the friendship was instant. They became immediate friends and would stay such until the end.
Over time, my life changed. I moved from my apartment into a house with Amanda and eventually we were wed. Lauren played a key role that day as bartender at the wedding alongside my friend Matt Garner. After the wedding, a select number of us went back to the cabin Amanda and I stayed in. Lauren was there.
Lauren was a frequent, constant presence in my life for the last four years. When she wasn’t present in person, she was there in text or social media. She never hesitated to encourage my creative ventures. In fact, to this day she is one of the very few people to have ever read a screenplay I wrote. She was this amazing force of optimism that I can’t do justice in words no matter how hard I try. A burst of life.
And now, she is no longer here.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite short stories, “The Nearness of You” by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson. In it, a man dreams of a woman he’s never known every night. The dreams wreak havoc on his soul and torment him. He finally learns that she was his wife but due to interference from time travel she never existed. The offer is made to erase the dreams since she can never be brought back into existence. In the end, the dreamer chooses, like all the others in his situation, to keep them. He chooses to remember a love he can never have again.
I think about that perfect story today because it summarizes grief so well. I’ve been in deep pain this month but if I had to choose, I’d rather stay in the pain than never have been so lucky to know my friend. I don’t have very many close friends but Lauren truly was in that number. I miss her and I always will. It hurts to think I’ll never see my friend again. But I had 13 years to know her well. I’ll take that over never having had the joy.
And so it is I post this tribute to you, my dear friend.