I would like to call myself a writer. I would like to say that I write. But sometimes, when something comes along in life that carries the emotional gravity that you would expect to start the words flowing, nothing comes but emptiness. It’s as if all that’s inside – the part that hurts, rejoices, responds and flees – has been carved out like the meat of a fruit. All that’s left is a numb, tired rind.
That’s how it was as today approached. Today – the one-year anniversary of my young friend Seyde’s death. I wanted to create something to remember her on this day. But as the day drew near, I had no inspired words, not even brief ramblings welling up inside as they sometimes do. But I did have the memories. So many cherished ones of the brief time I was blessed to know her. Then there were the memories of that day and the time that followed, when we all tried to process, with no real success, how such a light could be lost in this world.
I was sitting down to lunch when I got the phone call. In retrospect, this was probably a somewhat fitting tribute to my relatively new friendship with Seyde.
I have a great passion for food, both eating it and talking about it. The chances of calling me or encountering me in any way when I’m not eating are fairly slim. It was a restaurant – Ken’s Sushi – where I first met Seyde and it was on the occasion of many a dinner there that we would coincidentally see each other. More than once our conversation turned to cuisine. I remember her declaration on one of those nights that she was going to introduce me to a restaurant that served real Thai food. We never made it there.
Our food moments reached beyond the neon sign of Ken’s. Seyde once “liked” that I “find comfort in kimchi” on Facebook. When I posted a picture of a cicada that I had eaten at a party, many of my friends were very open with their disapproval of my non-traditionally western snacking. Seyde, who had also been at the party, chimed in with “It was good huh, Chance?”
That last one was a display of Seyde’s instinct to protect, to support – one of her many luminous traits that came naturally to her. This was the same warm spirit that so easily made new friends feel like old ones, which made me always feel invited, whether it was out dancing with everyone, over to a table to meet a new friend or to see her art at a showing.
It was next to a piece of her art that I first saw Seyde’s full name: Hasaya Criseyde Chansuthus. I’ve always thought it read like the name of a flower. The work she had on display at the art show that night was mixed media incorporating stained glass arranged in a way that made me think of flowers.
These are the things that stay behind when a person leaves us. Memories, notes, photographs, things made by the hands of our friend, our loved one. The physical, the abstract and where both intersect are how we hold on to the one we’ve lost, and maybe in some ways how we learn to let go. I’m not sure what exactly comes next – an afterlife, another life, a queue where our souls wait for an infinite number of next chapters. Maybe it’s a composite existence of all that we’ve know within ourselves and around us – all the memories, emotions, colors, shapes, faces, expressions, gestures – everything that ever made us feel anything at all swirling and living in a realm where we can taste, touch and experience those beautiful moments of our life eternally.
If I’m deemed worthy at the end of my corporeal days, perhaps I’ll have the chance to sit with Seyde at a café table, over the best khao soi, panang noodles or other dish that I’ve haven’t even experienced yet. Maybe Mom and my grandmother will join us under skies stained with clouds like colored glass. I’ll introduce Seyde and she’ll start to tell a story about a night when I was very drunk until I shoot her a glance that makes her smile and skip the story. Mom tends to worry. I’ll look around and see all the loving faces of our friends and families and we’ll all talk about food and music and how we danced our different dances in our different times and whenever we speak each other’s names, the words will come out sounding like names of flowers.
It’s starting to rain as I look up from the monitor and my vision of the hereafter. This New Year’s Eve, the first anniversary of our goodbye to Seyde, brought a rogue summer wind that tricked me into wearing short sleeves and writing on the patio of this coffee shop. I’ve watched customers dressed for later New Year’s revelry come and go for a while now. Winter is taking the day back as the rain cools the city and makes me consider hot tea over the water I’m drinking.
Last night, Ken of Ken’s told me about a tea made with flowers that blossom in the hot water of the teapot. I can picture their petals opening inside the hollow belly of the pot, filling the emptiness there with the memory of their once earthly connection and the beauty, fragrance and hope that they still bring.