The morning after Christine’s accident the girlfriend of one of her brothers came up to me at my locker. She and I barely knew each other so when she stood in front of me crying, I just sort of stared back, confused as she tried to formulate words. When she finally spit them out: Christine had been killed in a car accident the night before, I laughed. To this day I don’t know why I laughed. I think part of me thought she was kidding or playing some fucked up sick joke; while the other part of me that feared it to be true laughed because that’s all that could come out of me in that moment. I thanked her for the information, which I still didn’t believe it, and went to the library to find our friend Cortney.
Cort sat amongst the stacks of art books trying to locate something before classes began (the morning bell had yet to officially ring), and I told her what I had just been told. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me. She stared at me and kept repeating: “But we can go see her in the hospital, right? She’s in the hospital so we can go see her right now if we want, right?” It was at this point that the librarian, who had obviously been made aware by the school earlier that morning, came over and escorted us to the school counselor. By that time the room was full of our friends who had already found out the news in basically the same way we did. It was June 2nd, 1994; Christine had been taken from us the night before on June 1st.
Before the accident things had changed within our group of friends. We had always been so close since grammar school, but now that we were in high school, our friendships became strained as we started to grow apart and into different people. If we were to compare it to My So-Called Life, which was very popular at the time and a reference point we always used, Christine, Holly had remained Sharon Cherski, while Cortney and I had gone the other route of Rayanne Graff and Angela Chase. We were all still friends, but the changes that were happening were becoming harder and harder to ignore. It was also the source of arguments, and lots of them that I won’t even bother addressing. But what it came down to was that Cortney and I were changing, and hanging around people with whom neither Holly or Christine were impressed. We were 16 years old. We were fucked up, confused and trying to find ourselves and people who were like-minded. We weren’t trying to cast Holly and Christine aside, we were just trying to make space for new people in our lives.
A few days before the accident we were all in the gym trying to sign up for our classes for the following year. It was chaos, as it was every year, as hundreds of kids stood in line to get a class at a certain time that ideally was full of their friends. As I tried to make my way toward the sculpture class that I’d been eyeing since freshman year, Christine came up to me and wanted to get into some verbal altercation. You could tell she was looking for an argument.
“You’re being a real bitch lately, Mandy,” she said instead of the usual greeting of “hello.” To the best of my knowledge I hadn’t done anything so I rolled my eyes and tried to walk away, but she continued: “Holly told me you’re thinking about buying the same shoes she has and that’s fucked up.” I don’t remember exactly what I said in response, but I do remember that she was trying to fight with me over some stupid shoes, so I just rolled my eyes again, told her I needed to add the art class before it was full and walked away. “I’m not talking to you until you stop being a bitch!” she yelled out at me. I shook my head, knew it would eventually blow over, as it always did, and laughed a bit that it had something to do with shoes — of all things. Three days later, Christine was gone and that afternoon in the gym was the last time we had spoken. She had just turned 18 years old the week before the accident.
Christine was buried on one of those perfect spring days without a cloud in the sky, and I remember that being the saddest part about the funeral. Not only was she gone, but the perfection of the day almost seemed to be mocking us all. Of course, the priest explained that it was Christine smiling down on all of us, but my lack of faith and religion doesn’t believe in such things. All I knew as I stood there staring at the brand new headstone, the one her heartbroken parents were forced to pick out just the day before for their daughter, the one that was so polished that it reflected the sun in a blinding way, that there were absolutely no words for the devastation they were feeling or the major loss we all experienced that day and every day that has followed.
Although I know that eventually our tiff that day over Holly’s shoes and me turning into a “bitch,” would have gone by boards, it still, and always will bother me that we weren’t speaking when she died. As the months that followed and the police investigated the accident, the fact that there were little to no brake marks led them to believe that maybe it hadn’t been an accident at all. In addition to that, other friends also revealed that right before the crash Christine had also pulled away from them, too. Even as recently as just this past Christmas when a bunch of us were in town, that possible theory came up again. However, I refuse to believe it or partake in conspiracy theories when it comes to the life of an 18-year-old girl being cut so short and so tragically on a windy back road, the same road we used to walk down as kids to get ice cream at the convenient store that is no longer there.
Although it was a lesson I learned too late when it came to Christine, I have since made it a point to never leave even the slightest argument unresolved with anyone I love. There are some things you just can’t take back and when the other party is taken from you, that regret and guilt never, ever goes away.
Whenever I’m in my hometown, I always stop to visit her grave. I kiss her stone and leave her flowers. Although I’m leaving those flowers for Christine, I’m also doing it for her mom, too. The moss has grown up over the base of the headstone and the way the marbled shined the day of her funeral has faded tremendously thanks to the harsh New England winters, but I figure if her mom shows up and sees flowers there that she didn’t leave the last time she went to visit her only daughter, then that alone will have been worth it. I don’t ever want her mother to think that the rest of us have forgotten her. I want her to know that we’ve never stopped thinking about her either.