“‘Was it hard? I hope she didn’t die hard.’ Sethe shook her head. ‘Soft as cream. Being alive was the hard part.'”–Beloved
There is something final about committing words to the screen to talk about you, my friend. Writing this makes it concrete that you can no longer make me giggle at your antics. The irony in writing a letter is that, through the process of putting together the pieces of our friendship, I began to value that our words are immortal, but our flesh is not.
Speaking of flesh, I remember when you reminded me to love myself as Baby Suggs told a community of ex-slaves in Beloved. She said that “In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it.” Through this passage, you taught me to genuinely fall in love with myself, accepting all the scars left behind by life’s experiences. I pray that you were generous enough to yourself to do the same.
I had a difficult time with your illness, believing and praying that it would go away. You wanted to talk to me because you knew I would not talk about it with you if you did not want me to. You knew that I would talk about funny things, like the time we were acting silly and I fell down a flight of stairs. We both ended up on the floor laughing at my clumsiness. Or, there was that one act of selfishness with me, when you wouldn’t share that grape soda. To be fair, you offered me my own, but you made that Fanta grape look good.
You were always so generous with your friendship, but I was selfish while you were ill. I couldn’t bear talking to you, knowing that you were hurting on the other end of the phone. So, we texted and talked occasionally about all the funny things we experienced together. I should have called more and reminded you of the time you went clogging down the hallway of our department. That story always made us laugh.
Your generosity extended to the days before you passed away. On May 14, only a few days before you left me, you sent a text: “Remember me clogging and drinking grape soda. . . . And laughing at the bottom of stairwells.”
Since you left me, I have had a number of well-meaning people tell me “what Jesse would want” and “how Jesse would want me to remember him.” I know you Jesse, and believe that you would want me to feel however it is that I need to feel. Sometimes, I feel like getting in the bed and pulling the covers up over my head. And, sometimes, I feel like reading a Toni Morrison novel to be close to you.
On the days that I can muster up the energy to do so, I rejoice in our friendship and I rejoice in your love. I am thankful to have known you, and I consider the pain of you leaving me the small price I have to pay for all the funny times we shared. Your love for your friends was thick, Jesse, because that was the only way you knew how to love. And, as Sethe said to Paul D. in Beloved when he told her that she, too, loves thick, “Love is or love ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”