It is with a troubled and heavy heart that I write this post. It's one of the types of posts I hate to write, yet always seem to find therapeutic. Early this morning, at school, my classroom phone rang. It was my buddy Laura Kim...
Did you see the email about Rita?
I hadn't, but before I could even answer her, I was given the saddest of news. Rita, a colleague and onetime friend of mine had passed away. I'm not exactly sure how old she was, but she was young... several years younger than me, and way to young to die.
Since that phone call this morning, a myriad of memories have washed all over me. Rita and I have a storied past. At one time, I considered her one of my good friends. and we shared many good times together. But then one day, just about three years ago, a rift opened up between us over nothing really, and our friendship evolved into awkward run-ins at first and then eventually total nothingness. Now that she's gone, I can't...I don't...regret anything that ever happened between us. I just can't help but feel immense sorrow for her losing her life, especially at such a young age. Her death is a shock, and serves as yet another reminder that life is such a precious thing and it need not be wasted on things that don't really matter.
I first met Rita, whom I eventually came to call 'Reet,' several years ago. She was an elementary school speech pathologist and she'd been tasked with working with a student of mine in the 7th grade. She was looking for a space to work with him and none of the teachers in my school would allow her in their classrooms. Then one day she knocked on my door, and of course I invited her in.
It was really nice having another adult in the room for a change. Working as a teacher is like being on an island, and so having her there gave me someone to talk to. Soon enough she and I became fast friends and for about three to four years Reet and I shared lots of good times together. I remember when we first exchanged phone numbers, she put hers into my phone and called herself "Rita, the Hot Sexy Goddess,' lol. That name and number is still on my phone.
Rita was one of those people I felt comfortable sharing all of myself with from the get-go. I believe that the first time she and I went out together socially, I told her that I was gay. As things turned out, perhaps that part of me was partially to blame for our eventual rift. Over time I'd learned how she viewed homosexuality and felt that maybe I was more of a novelty to her and not looked upon as being 'normal.'
I have to give her credit, though. During the times we spent together, she met all of my friends and she even went to Cherry Grove with us on Labor Day, as well as clubbing with me in the city. I remember her being nervous about going to the Grove out of fear that she was going to get hit on, but she persevered and went and I'd like to think that day was one of the best days she ever had. Every photo of her that day shows a great big genuine smile.
Three years ago, a misunderstanding between us lead us to drift apart, and eventually we just stopped speaking to one another. We never had an argument, but we're both stubborn Italians and neither one of us made the effort to reconcile, sadly. The following school year, she took a leave of absence and ended communication with most of us at school. No one ever really knew what was going on with her...until this morning.
So for what it's worth Rita, you Hot Sexy Goddess, you, I hope you have found peace. I thank you for your friendship and I promise to hold on to the good times and let go of the bad from this day forward. And I also want to say thanks for the reminder that life is so precious, and that we all need to make the most of the time we have here, for every day that we wake up we are lucky.