Thursday, July 23, 2009

About Cheryl N.

Watching Yute is dedicated to her, but the page were that is stated doesn't go into a whole lot of detail. I knew her through the internet, along with a little bunch of folks who traveled in similar virtual circles.

Once upon a time, this lovely young lady named Cheryl fell in love. This was the love. The sort of love that the young have that will last forever, and save them from the world. Her internet boyfriend was her knight in shining armour.

Finally they were to meet face to face. She got on a plane, and went to meet him. They had a wonderful time, everything she had hoped or imagined. All too soon, it was time for her to go. She got on the plane, and headed home.

While she was in the air, her boyfriend turned to his ex girlfriend for some reason, and was unfaithful. Wracked with guilt, he told Cheryl about it later. I can only imagine her initial reaction, but the result of the conversation was that she told him to choose between her and his ex. He said he had to think about it.

She came online, and lamented all about it. She was upset enough that I and one other phoned her in a conference call. She didn't have much else to say that she hadn't said in text, but it was the sound of her voice that broke my heart. Her simple dream of the perfect love was shattered. We told her comforting things. The kinds of things you're supposed to say, I suppose. Even if true, the cliches don't often have much impact.

Eventually, we felt we'd done our best as supportive friends. Cheryl still sounded very sad of course, but coping. They say when a depressed person suddenly seems much better, it's because they've made a grim decision. I was aware of this, and felt she was still in an 'adequate' cruising altitude of sadness.

The next day I couldn't do online in the first half of the day, but she was on my mind. When I finally got home, I popped online. The others were in shock, grieving. Cheryl was dead. The boyfriend had come online to tell us. I'm not sure how he found out. Maybe Cheryl sent him an email before she did it or something.

There was a suspension of feeling, a numbness. I had to find out all there was to know. Around 4:30 that afternoon, she jumped form her 10th story bedroom window. In a morbid moment of obsession, someone else had calculated how long that fall would take, forcing us all to imagine the last three and a half seconds of Cheryl's life.

A Hoax. Please let it be a hoax. A stunt that Cheryl was pulling to punish her boyfriend. When my wits had gathered enough, I called her number. Her mother answered with a weak voice, and strong accent. I asked if Cheryl was there.

In choppy english, she replied, "No. Cheryl dead today."

What do you say to that? It was true. "Oh. I'm so sorry." I hesitated, wondering what else to say. Cheryl's mother softly mumbled a couple syllables.

"Goodbye, I'm sorry." I said before hanging up.

That was a bit over ten years ago, but I evidently still think of her from time to time. Maybe you're thinking "She must have been a bit off balance to do something like that" or something similar. Something to put the situation into a tidy little box, slap a label on it, and put it on the shelf for when the census people come around.

Yes, she had problems. She was human. Humans have problems. Statistics are people. I know that well enough myself. Two years later I sat in my new wheelchair in the hospital, staring up at a poster of a pie chart about spinal injury statistics. I plotted myself out on it. I was in good company, I suppose.

Even though Cheryl was on the other end of the continent, and you could argue that I didn't know her all that well, I refuse to put her memory into a little box, and stuff it on a shelf in my mind. Maybe the memory is blurring with time, maybe I idealize her a little, but I knew her well enough to know that she was vibrant, funny and sweet.

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