October 07, 2012


For the past few mornings Jude has woke at approximately 4:40 A.M. to tell me of his ecstatic joy for being awake and alive in the pre-dawn. He has woken with shrieks of delight over joining the dominant ranks of our family, having grown a tooth an all. A scant tooth, but none the less, he is one of us; a tooth-haver. The tooth, along with the perdurable shitting himself awake, brings him unto the day. And for the following 40-50 minutes he kicks and gurgles and rolls back and forth between Matt and I, looking for locks of hair or fingers to yank and gnaw, like a flirtatious 20 lb. honeybadger. He grows impatient if after his diaper change, I just hand him a teether and try to half snooze. He wants to jump. It is too early for the bouncer, so instead, I sit up and I hold him under his arms facilitate his Tigger routine about the mattress. Then we do some little bicycling of the legs, followed by standing and sitting and rolling and then it is almost 5:15. He will sleep again around 5:30, for an hour. It is an ungodly routine. The other morning I kicked Matt awake and offered him $20 cash if he would change the baby and give him a bottle in exchange for one hour of sleep. Thankfully, he has not collected on this debt as those sorts of wages will break me in no time.

Two mornings ago, as Jude was nearly back to sleep, I remembered that JJ's birthday was this weekend. I always remember it as the same week of Janis Joplin's death date, which is October 4th. I could not remember whether JJ would have been 39 or 40. I think 40. I do not remember her death date, only that Dave called me on the 28th of August when I was on book tour and I did not call him back because the message was super casual sounding. And then Cali called me a few days later to see how I was coping. Coping with what I said. That was, I think, September 2. I never asked what day exactly JJ died. I wanted to know everything but then again not really. The particulars didn't change anything; how long she'd been using again, who her boyfriend at the time was. It didn't matter to the story so why ask. She died. She died the way I thought she might die though she seemed like she would live forever in and out, in and out. Someone said she killed herself and all the sober people were like, duh you are always killing yourself, until you are not. Killing yourself is relative when you are strung out.

A friend would drop me a line to say that she'd been spotted at a meeting or was in Sober Living--or not. When she was using she was the most annoying person I'd ever met. Like, unbearable. Because when she was sober she was full realized and living and unapologetic and honorable and encouraging and funny. Those things all together at once and on full-blast. I do not imagine her alive often, mostly because I don't think about things in that way but I think she would have loved to meet these kids. Her mom says sometimes she thinks JJ will walk right in the door. I cannot think of a worse feeling I could ever have, as a mom, than that.

A few weeks ago her mom sent me photos that JJ still had. Mostly photobooth. I credit my pristine platinum hair to JJ entirely, as she was in beauty school and a whiz with the toner.
Photo 63.jpg
Taken at the Rite Aid photobooth across from the Beverly Center. I am approximately 19. She was maybe a year sober? In other pictures from this set, we are holding a newborn baby of a friend of hers who was walking by--the drummer from Bad Religion--and let us use the baby as a photo prop. I wonder if that kid would think that is funny. They are a teenager now, so, probably not.

Usually when I think of JJ, I just feel gratitude and awe. Some of it for having known her, but mostly for everyone else that managed to get out of it alive and stay alive. I often think, still, that no one has ever known me better, even though we were just kids then. I think she made everyone feel that way; that she understood you best. But we were best-best. If you knew one of us, you knew both; a tag-team.

We'd barely spoken in the two or three years before she died, and our times as best friends had passed, the shadow of the bestness almost unbearable. Some girls who were in her sober living house from a few months before she died recognized me at the memorial, from pictures she showed them; they knew the name of our band that broke up 11 years ago. I did not show off pictures of her. I kept them stuffed away. If I caught a glimpse, they took my breath away.

What does it mean when the person who knew you best is gone entirely? That is what I wonder. The other half of your history is sliced off, never to be recounted. The details you forgot never to be put back into place.

Posted by jessica hopper at October 7, 2012 11:28 PM | TrackBack