I met up with my good friend, Fin (a moniker), a few nights ago at a favorite spot. We always manage to find fascinating things to talk about over tall gin and tonics. Last night, I couldn’t help but revisit something that she had told me this past winter. Something I’ve thought about often since then.
We had met up at sometime in January or March. Fin had been casually seeing a musician from Minneapolis for a couple of months, and she was rather enamored with him. He, however, had been rather fickle. In the previous week she had been at his house when he told her something that had happened earlier in his life.
The musician confided in Fin that some years earlier he had dated a girl who had biked to his house in the middle of winter to make him dinner. The musician had suffered a broken leg, and had been holed up at home. After making a beautiful meal, the girl let the musician know that she had strong feelings for him. The musician told the girl that he wasn’t at a time in his life where he wanted a relationship. After talking for a bit longer, the girl packed up her things and left on her bike.
In the days following, no one could get a hold of the girl. The musician began hearing from mutual friends and acquaintances that they hadn’t heard from the girl since the evening after she had made dinner for him. Two days later, someone reported seeing a bicycle on the river ice. Not long after, the girl’s body was found. The best guess was that she likely tried to take a shortcut home. She pedaled her bike out on the ice (probably as she had done on her way to the musicians house), but hit a thin patch, fell through, froze, and died.
The musician confessed that he was tortured by the event, that he gone through all of the ‘what-ifs’ and in the end, it didn’t change anything. He couldn’t go back in time and say yes to the relationship, she couldn’t have stayed the night, they couldn’t have had breakfast at a diner in the morning. Because she was dead. And even though she was dead, he continued to replay, analyze, and romanticize everything surrounding the event.
And after Fin told me this story, she looked me in the eyes and said, “I can never be a dead girl.”
Fin knew at that moment that she could never be as important, monumental, compelling, or haunting as that dead girl. Every woman that musician would ever meet would be compared to what he thought, or wanted that dead girl to be.
I spent quite a bit of time thinking of that line. I adopted it to sum up: I can never live up to someone else’s expectations of me. When I found myself stuck in cyclical thinking, I’d repeat the line in my head. It had always felt true to say it, but also disappointing.
When I revisited this story with Fin the other night, something had shifted in her narrative. She retold the story the same way she had this winter, and it ended with the same statement, “I can never be a dead girl,” but this time, after a short pause, she added, “and I don’t want to be.”
In the silence I thought about the things I am: patient, and honest, charismatic, and comical.
I thought about all the sweetness and happiness in my life.
I can never be a dead girl, I don’t really want to be, either.