Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Lisa Beck’s death. Of the two people reading this blog, only one knows who Lisa Beck was, so here’s the history: Lisa Beck became my sister’s best friend the instant they met, probably around 1988. They were six years old. I was eight. Lisa’s parents, Al and Paula, were (are) awesome people. Our families stayed in touch throughout the years, though we never saw each other as much as anyone would have liked.
I’m haunted by Lisa’s death, in a way that doesn’t really make any sense. She was Noelle’s best friend, not mine. She was two years younger than me at a time in a person’s life when two years might as well be twenty. But after she died, I found myself remembering everything about her that I possibly could, I guess in an effort to hold onto something that I’m not even sure I ever really had.
I remember Al making fun of Lisa when two front teeth fell out and took an extraordinarily long time to grow back.
I remember Lisa’s birthday, maybe her seventh or eighth. Noelle and I spent the night across the street at the Beck’s house, playing “Happy Birthday,” by New Kids on the Block, on the stereo for Lisa.
I remember taking a family picture when I was ten or eleven years old. Noelle and I wore matching denim shirts. Lisa came with us, and my mother bought her a denim shirt as well. We took two pictures that day--one with the three Wilson kids, and one with the three Wilson kids and Lisa. The one with Lisa is the one that was framed and kept in the house. It’s still in the same frame and has made it through all of my family’s moves. After November 25, 2002, my mother made more of an effort to keep it prominently featured.
I remember my mother comforting Noelle when the Becks had to move away. This was the Air Force--best friends didn’t grow up together. Instead, they had to keep in touch, waiting for a few years down the road when their fathers, or mothers, would be transferred to the same base again. Noelle was inconsolable. It was dark in the room that night, probably long after bedtime, and Noelle was crying on her bed. My mother sat next to her, promising that she would see Lisa again, that they would be friends forever.
I remember a mix tape that Lisa made Noelle, long before everything was put onto burned CDs. Lisa’s dad had transferred to Florida, where we were living, and Lisa and Noelle were reunited for a short time. But the Becks left again, and Lisa gave Noelle the tape as a departing gift. The tape was always in whatever car Noelle was driving, and she still has it today.
I remember the last time I saw Lisa. I went to the restaurant where I used to work, and found her working there, selling t-shirts, just like I used to. We talked for a few minutes and that was it. That was May 2001.
Lisa was 20 years old when she jumped off the roof of Smith Hall at Florida State University. That was November 25, 2002, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The one thing that causes me the most grief is knowing (even though of course there is no way to really know this) that the second she stepped off the roof she must have regretted it. And she had at least two seconds to think about it before it was over. I struggle to find a way to believe that there was any peace in the decision, because I certainly know there was no peace in the outcome. At least not for anyone she left behind.
During my second year at NYU, I went down to Newport, Rhode Island. The Becks were living there, so I hung out with Al and Lisa for the weekend (Paula was out of town). We visited The Breakers (the Vanderbilt house), saw a movie, and drove around. While listening to a CD, Lisa and I both noticed the curse word in “Building A Mystery” by Sarah McLachlan. Neither of us had ever realized she said “beautiful fucked up man.”
When my mom called me and told me what had happened, it was almost a week after the incident. Noelle learned about it online from another friend. And the only other news was that Lisa had left her parents a note that said, “I wasn’t meant to grow old.” If there is anything more devastating than that, I don’t want to know what it is.
I hope she didn’t suffer. I hope she felt nothing at all. Maybe there’s a chance she felt some sort of release when she left the ledge. And if she didn’t, I’m so sorry she couldn’t take it back. I wish I could have been there. I wish someone had been there to talk to her. It was the middle of the day on a college campus. Didn’t she pass anyone on her way up to the roof?
Al, Lisa and I went to the mall at some point that weekend in Newport. I don’t know what we were talking about, but the conversation turned to the idea of perception. Al pointed to a blue sweater and said that we could all be seeing it as a different color, since there was no real way of knowing what someone else was seeing.
As I try now to come to grips with Lisa’s death, the only thing I can think is that maybe that problem of perception is what got to her. Maybe the shade of blue Lisa was seeing in her world was too much for her to handle. And maybe I just can’t understand because I don’t know what it was like to look at things through her eyes. I just hope that things look a little different to her wherever she is now.
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