This is Heather Lynn Campbell


My first real memory of you is being in the backseat of a car, asking you something and looking out the window on my tippy-toes because I’m two years old and kneeling in the seat isn’t doing shit for me. I don’t remember the conversation — probably asking, “Why?” like most two year olds, or maybe I was asking to wear those super retro eighties thick rimmed glasses you wore back then. I can’t guess. I thought about deciding on one of those scenarios, trying to make it symbolic, thematic, like good writing should be. Try to make it mean something real, but nothing I can come up with is more real right now than the uncertainty of a moment.

Last week, we came to visit, and we got lost, and I had a fleeting vision of the house surrounded by cop cars, as Chris accidentally passed the street. I didn’t know why; didn’t ask why, but I shook it off. My brother, Chris and I came into the house and we all hugged and laughed and you “It almost feels like a holiday!”. Kevin made crazy jokes and Chris was shy and smiling in the corner until  I told him to come sit down at the table with the rest of us. You asked him how he was. I told you how I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but somehow, I was getting back to Atlanta, and I was taking Chris with me. We all laughed. The kids screamed. It was no different from any other visit I always made sure to make. Uncle Al came over and the only thing missing was rum cake, french fries, fried chicken and my mommy and Aunt Cheryl and Leigha. We made to leave, and it still took an hour, between Jermaine playing with Chris and Kevin, and Heiress sitting in my lap, and the new puppy, Jelly Bean, successfully making it to the puppy pad to pee. I hugged you and you said, “Love you family!” and I said, “Love you too!!” and I felt so good and loved and happy. And even though shit sucks so bad for most days, and I’ve turned into a ball of nerves and pain waiting to be held at the end of the week, I felt like I could do it. I thought and I said, “I might have fucked the whole graduating in four years thing to hell, but I have my family. I have my Chris, and he’s here, and I have my brother who’s here and Heather and Heiress and Harmony and Fat Boy, and Uncle Al, who is still here, even after he’s co-signed on all the loans that harass both of us each day because I haven’t made an on time payment in ten months. Everyone is still here and I will be alright”.

The moment was infinite. There’s no other way to describe it. The details will get blurry. I won’t remember if I put Bean in Kevin’s hat while Uncle Al was there, or before he came. I won’t remember that you made the little kids a grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup, and I wont remember that Harmony came in and said, “Where mine, doe?” in only the way Harmony can, I wont remember when or if Harmony really passed out on the couch, or if I saw Wink that day, or what time we left or how long we stayed.

I only will remember how I felt so good for the first time in so long and that I nearly cried on the way back to Youngstown, staring out the window from Chris’s mom’s car where the familiar road of gray dead trees and smeared roadkill have become more than familiar in the nineteen years and counting that I have lived here, the stretch of highway in this corner of existence that have become synonymous with the decrescendo of excitement, of momentous and stimulating circumstances. A decrescendo of life, love, adventure, escape, and all the things I felt at ten and didn’t possibly have a name for…the inertia of returning home, or at least to the home I’ve known the longest.

I wont go on about the foretelling signs I couldn’t put my finger on. Like the fact I picked up my phone to call you and decided against it, even though I knew you wouldn’t really reject the notion of coming to get me from Kent to take me to the liquor store. Like how I had to go to the bathroom to cry after a squabbles between my boyfriend and I on how sad I had been all day, how our whole planned night of debauchery was laid to waste, and even before that, I was more nervous than excited, and how my brother and I picked up each other’s moods and decided against leaving campus to find a party elsewhere. Like how I slept like shit and around the time you probably died, I woke up, and shook Chris awake, holding out my arms to be held because I was cold in his otherwise hot and cramped room, and my head and eys were heavy, but for some reason sleep would not rob me. He fell back to sleep and I laid on his chest, fluttering in and out of consciousness as the sun came up, and that’s how I was when Kevin handed me the phone, Leigha on the other line, saying over and over again, “Heather is dead, Heather is dead, she died, Kourtney, Heather is dead” and without any words to say, I could only ask, “What?” over and over, over and over, over and over, over and over.

“I know everything is going to be okay, everything happens for a reason” she says later on, but how to tell an eleven year old who still believes in the goodness of marriage, Santa, and money, “No, baby. Nothing happens for a reason. Some things are reasonless”. Because this, this is what’s reasonless; that my cousins and friends are dropping like flies, from bridges, from school, from jobs, from calls and from sanity. How do I explain to her that it will be okay, even though it surely will not be okay. Three children do not have a mother, a lover is without his love, puppy without his master. I’m without a cousin, and my m other and my aunt are without a niece, in the same exact way that they’ve lost a sister so many years ago? How do I tell her and my cousins that no matter who loves you, and what you do, it is your human right and duty to feel pain and it is your birthright to die. Always a child of death, I lived in the shadows of those who were not there; my mother’s father sorely missed, a brother taken, and a sister snatched in her sleep, just the way you were. How can I say it will be alright without knowing I’m lying, without feeling the shame of a lie, albeit how much good it will do? When my boyfriend remembers his teacher who was stalked and shot in the head by a man she didn’t love in her car in a parking lot, how can I tell him it’s all gonna be fine, if he just lets it out, lets himself cry?

I’ve been crying all my life and I haven’t stopped yet, and I don’t believe I will stop very soon.
Who am I to lie? But who am I to tell the inescapable, inevitable and overwhelming truth that there can be no good, that there can be no hope, without bad, without pain, without loss, without suffering?

I used to think, “If only someone had told me at ten, that life was not easy even if you were smart and read a lot of book, maybe I might have been more prepared”… For the depression that was hereditary, the millineal feelz of being in a world where not only is every one just as smart on paper as you are, but that they were cutthroat as hell too”. My mom told me I was sheltered once, and I swore I wasn’t. Was I afraid to walk around the West End and shady corners of Atlanta, with no men, no gun, no peper spray, and a dying phone and no chrager? Hell no. I wish a nigga would. I wasn’t afraid to run to Atlanta at the end of my senior year, motherfuck mononucleosis and those bitches I spent the last six years begging to love me the way I loved them. I had my heartbroken and brushed under the bed out of shame, for simply being a girl who loved another girl, for being too black for approval, and I was prepared for anything, everything after being nothing to the somethings that were my world.

Except the silence, the silence that wouldn’t stop, the leaves or my teeth that rattled like chains or like footsteps and the blood I would see in my dreams no matter how much violence I avoided during the day, the horror movies and gory T.V. shows I made a point not to watch.

In one year, I have been hungrier, more lost (geographically and emotionally), and more alone that I have been in my entire year and I’m still patched together, still whole, even if my paint is chipped here and there, and liquor, sex and a twice loved obsession with fantasy world are the glue that keeps me floating.

Junot Diaz had this quote that I found on VONA’s webpage… “A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” Change the words around, and you have what it is to be human, don’t you? To live despite the respite from everyday hells?  To be really alive, to be? Ser, not estar? I used to think so but when I know that I have to go to a funeral on Friday and think of the drama that comes with it. The confused claims that someone was closer, explaining to the kids again that their mom can’t come bak and she won’t ever get up, having to watch a parent bury their child, aunts bury a niece, child bury a parent at fourteen, six and four?

How can this be enough, for anyone?

It wasn’t enough for Aris, or the three people that jumped after her. It wasn’t enough for the famous Jett Jackson and so many others, and it’s not enough for me, who have always demanded more of my surrounding than I should have expected.
So I guess maybe that is it, then; defining what is enough, letting even the most simple things be enough.

Because no, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, and no, everything does not happen for a reason. There is no reason in this world. Only love and the chaos that comes with it. One cannot exist without the other, and I know again, what I’ve known before, and what other before me have learned again and again, only to forget. And it is worth it to love,  worth it to remember when all you want to do is forget. It’s worth it to fry chicken and french fries, come what may, 1,000+ calories, stomach ache or loss of something dearer to you than yourself. Without chaos, there is no love, and without love, we are nothing.

And even fifteen years after my dreams of Harvard, being a prodigal child author, or being an Hogwarts alumni, Class of 2010, have turned to ashes and returned to the earth, I will never ever surrender to the old nightmare of being nothing.

I love you so much, Heather and Aris and Memaw, too. If angels didn’t exist, they do now.


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