A valediction.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from MIT’s lawyers, just to check that they had my contact information in the event that I would be called to testify in the Shin case, scheduled to go to trial at the beginning of May. In the car Thursday morning, just shy of April and St. Paul, we were listening to the song I listened to over and over when I packed up my things to spend summer 2000 in Bexley instead of Random, the one that I still can’t listen to without really kind of losing it. This morning, I received an email from my old housemaster, with the message to the MIT community from Philip Clay regarding the Shins’ settlement enclosed. It is fair to say that I was very surprised. But I was on my way out the door and so didn’t think too much of it, other than to feel a weird discomfort about this unexpected ending to six years of drawing things out.
When I got back this afternoon, I had nearly a half a dozen emails from various people containing links to the various news articles and statements on the settlement. It was while reading these that everything really sunk in — the fact that this thing is now supposed to be over, with nothing resolved, nothing gained for anyone, and no truth gotten at, no truths shared. There is no public moral to this story, and, worse, perhaps, even, than the coverage back in 2000 (and in 2001 and 2002, when the case was getting underway), there is no sense of honor or memorial, just a legal case that failed to go to trial, a girl, six years dead, like some media ghost, and no precedent set. I suspect I would have agreed to testify. Now we will never know what might have happened.
Last week, we watched Inherit the Wind in 394, and I couldn’t help but feel unsettled when the girl was on the witness stand being grilled by the William Jennings Bryan character. Working with MIT’s lawyers on this case, experiencing the legal process, my faith in the judicial system was perhaps buoyed, as these were good people caring tenderly for students still mourning the loss of a friend. The springtime sunsets from the lawyer’s office, in the corner of a skyscraper in the Back Bay, were burning red, and you could see for miles.
There was the fire, then the hospital, and then, coming back from a play in South Hadley, the email telling us that she was dead. Then there was the move, and the renovations, and the moving-back-in, and then someone was living in her room, and it didn’t smell like smoke anymore on that side of our floor, the one we had and still called Bonfire. (The firemen, the police must have thought it a sick joke.) And then in the spring there was Julie, and the year after that the depositions down in Quincy. I got a check for a few bucks from the other lawyers, for transportation and my pains, as if twelve dollars would be the amount, had one actually been able to put an amount to it without being vulgar. It was. And then there was a long period of waiting.
Now it’s like she’s really dead, and there is a chance at closure, if not resolution. I can’t say I understand, and I can’t say that I’m not still frustrated and angry. Today we’re supposed to close the book on this one, and it hurts, because these wounds have been held open for so long, and because a settlement seems to defy the whole reason for keeping them fresh. Would that we could all gather in the Main Lounge like we did for weeks afterward, that everyone with whom I might mourn were in the same city, the same place. We are all scattered now, six years gone, but I can feel the threads pulled taut, and know that we are still together, because these things are like a slow forge, and they leave you changed, annealed. For all my friends at Random, who suffered the cruelty of April all too acutely; for our housemaster, who deserves to be canonized; for MIT’s lawyers, who behaved with grace; and for Liz (not Elizabeth, as the papers all say, but Liz as we knew and remember her), whom we miss, and whom we will not forget (Hey, hey, Liz, going to do your laowndry): thank you. I am going to go sit on the porch now, and enjoy this beautiful evening.


4 thoughts on “A valediction.

  1. I always hoped that shoving everything away meant I was actually dealing with it, subconciously. I’m don’t think it did. But it helps to listen when others talk about it…this post and the last, I’ve understood it better. As Kristin said, Thank you.

  2. I’ll start this with a hug for you, Am, because I may also be about to ruin the mood.
    Your post was touching, and articulates my own sentiments rather accurately, to a point.
    Which is that I find this news disheartening, and find no closure. In truth, I feel that this new interpretation of the events has denied me closure much too effectively and (I hope not) permanently.
    Whatever the political reasons behind it, “likely a tragic accident,” in all of its non-committal ambiguity, seems as irreverent a summary of Liz’s death (and, inextricably, life) as any I can conjure. By accepting it, I feel that I would be betraying my friend and stripping all meaning from her final act. Horrifying and tragic as it was, it was anything but trivial or (dare I speculate) accidental. I guess I just can’t have closure without resolution and “truth gotten at.”
    On a grimmer note, if I ever take my own life for whatever currenly unforeseeable reason, please, acknowledge and respect my decision. It would not have been reached lightly.

  3. I had already decided I wasn’t going to testify.
    They got everything out of me in my 8 hours of desposition. My memory was better 5 years ago. I was not describing events again.
    And I noticed a few things when I was being deposed for Julie’s case: I am angry at people for using Liz as a pattern; I embaressed for my own actions when I don’t have the opportunity to put them in context; I don’t want to help people get money for their idea of a person.
    Fuck it. My friend is dead. I don’t miss her much any more, but I do wish she was there to write to.

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