When I was a senior in high school, one of my good friends died in a tragic accident that was related to our hard-partying ways. Many people in our school and community thought we had it coming to us. That attitude seemed somehow not right back then. And 18 years later, I still feel that receiving that kind of support was somewhat tragic in itself.
Timmy Ryniker, or “Ryno” as we called him, was one half of a twin. His sister Kerri was also a close friend, but I was tighter with Tim. After Timmy died, I pulled back a bit from this group of friends. We all processed the loss differently, and my way seemed a bit more head on at the time. They all grieved at first but went on with life as if nothing had happened — until it was late at night and the drinks and marijuana had been flowing freely. Only then would the tears also flow. So in the last months of my senior year, I distanced myself from them. I didn’t even go to prom.
I kept in touch with a couple of the girls throughout college, but not with Kerri, and not with any of the guys. Years later I’d heard through the grapevine that Kerri married a boy from college. His name was Tim.
Then she joined Facebook.
Kerri reached out to a few of us living in the city at the end of last winter — me and Scott (my upstairs neighbor) included. She was coming to New York and wanted to see us. So on a Thursday night last May we got together for drinks downtown in the financial district. It was wonderful to see her. Other than having much shorter hair, Kerri hadn’t changed a bit. Her beautiful green eyes and easy smile were as if I were still looking at my 17 year old friend.
The festivities continued and ended that night at our friend Ruben’s rooftop Manhattan apartment. After several more drinks and a couple of pizzas, Kerri commanded our attention. Her hand trembling, she emerged from her pocket a photo, and began to explain the real reason she was in the city. She planned to have Tim’s face tattooed on her arm the next day. She became very emotional. It seemed the entire city had fallen quiet at that moment.
Of our group of friends, I was the only female there. She then addressed the guys, of which there were four. “The year after Timmy died you held a golf benefit in his honor, which made me and my family so happy. That was the first year and also the last. Why?”
My heart went out to Kerri, who was clearly still working through her loss. But I’ve made peace with Timmy’s death. While I think of him often and of the carefree lives we led back then, I felt terrible (but also remarkably healed), that I did not share in her tears that night.
I saw Kerri again last October at the after party of the golf outing that Ruben organized in memory of Timmy. The next one is this September.
Little did I know that I would have even more time with Kerri months later.
Over the winter, one of the girls from my group in high school wrote that she needed a break from her family in Florida and would be coming to New York in May. Another was willing to take time off from her job in Texas. Kerri was up for driving down from where she lived upstate. Two of us were already in Brooklyn. It was going to be a reunion!
In anticipation of the five of us together for the first time since high school, I offered up my home and made plans to bring Mylo to my parent’s house on Long Island. I even planned a big reunion party for the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
It was a much-needed week of bonding and patching up old friendships. I was especially happy to have rekindled my friendship with Kerri, who sat with me in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a rainy Friday to bring Mylo out to my mom’s.
Growing up had made us vastly different. Kerri is a hardcore omnivore with a husband who hunts their dinner. I’m the only vegetarian of the lot. One is still pretty much “the hippie”. She likes to grow her own vegetables but dons a Louis Vuitton crossbody satchel. The one we’d never expect to be the most gainfully employed, is. Only three of the five us are married with children. Two of those three have healthy marriages.
Had we met for the first time today, there aren’t that many commonalities that would tie us together. It’s nice to know that a childhood steeped in memories and later on, a profound loss, is what has sealed our friendships. And I have no doubt that Timmy would approve.