She pulled her violin case open and pulled out a cassette tape she'd made at school, a mix tape with Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, David Bowie, really funky and full of soul. We talked for hours, or, she talked and I greedily soaked up the stories from that wonderfully strange school, so remote it seemed like another country. She'd lost a friend to a drug overdose a few weeks earlier, and was still morbidly fascinated by the gritty reality of actually knowing someone who died from drugs. It seemed unreal, something that happens to other people, and you hear the tragic tale on the news, but don't personally know an actual drug addict. I mean... heroin. Wow. This probably seems paradoxical; since it was mid-70's Florida, absolutely everyone smoked pot, but since it was cheap, plentiful, and nobody died from it, within our circles, it wasn't considered "drugs" - all those dire warnings and scary educational films were about speed, and downers, heroin, cocaine, morphine - nobody I knew took anything like that, or even knew where to get them, so it was exciting to have that brush against "real" drugs. Real life, like we saw on tv. Real death. She told me about this guy, about his almost romantic depressions, his mystery, and how everyone was drifting dazed through school for awhile after he died, suddenly aware of their mortality , and how they would be thinking of him and say to each other, "Freddie's on the corner now" and shake their heads.
She was draped lazily across the bed, propped up on one shoulder against the wall, cradling her violin case, until I teased her about dressing as a Mafia hit man, and she laughingly posed for a photo. Her chin raised, unable to hold a stern expression, she held her violin case clumsily, trying to figure out how to pretend it contained a machine gun. One foot casually resting on the bed, her eyes mere reddened slits. She was 19, lean and bony but healthy and strong, used to hiking up and down the hills of her beloved school in NH. She had none of the health problems that descended in layers in later years; no constant throat clearing, no back pain, her hands were limber and fluid, her voice soft, her giggle girlish. I'm holding this image in my mind and hearing that old tape player's tinny speakers, with Curtis Mayfield's careful guitar running through my head.