Dear Living IRL readers,
What follows is a series of excerpts from a work in progress—a memoir about my experience living life in the world after the death of my sister. Because she and I both grew up online, technology plays a role in my grief. It has strong fingers, has managed to work its way into my endlessly tangled emotions.
I won’t explain much else, other than that this is what I am trying to give you: concrete examples of moments when my grief and technology have interacted. Sometimes this involves phone calls. Sometimes texts. Sometimes emails. Sometimes social media. It’s all always there.
Long Beach Island, New Jersey
It’s summer and I haven’t been wearing my watch. I went for a walk along the beach yesterday and had no idea how long I was gone.
I tried to think about nothing. Tried to focus on the blueness of the sky and the shapes of its clouds and feel the sun and the sand burning my skin. Instead I thought about names I might give to children I don’t have. I thought about wanting to have kids just so I can name them after my dead sister.
I’ve been trying to read books, to scroll through pictures and posts, to eat cherries and spit out their pits, to go on hikes and walks and runs, to watch Orange is the New Black. I’ve been trying to be 24. I’ve been trying to be tired enough that I’ll fall asleep at night. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s harder. Two weeks ago I became so anxious that I could not catch my breath for I don’t know how long.
I try to remember if there were stretches of time like this one: months that went by when I didn’t talk to or hear from Emily. Because it still feels possible that she’s only gone because she’s studying abroad. Like my friends’ little sisters, who are all turning 21 or graduating or giving toasts at weddings or doing anything that living little sisters do that big sisters then post online. When I “like” their pictures what I mean to say is, “Be so grateful.”
I couldn’t wait for you to leave. I drank to your departure from New Orleans on the last day I saw you because your depressed visit had been so draining and then four days later you were dead. So I’m trying not to think about how long it’s been and I haven’t been wearing my watch.