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On the anniversary of her death I always have to remember Rebekkah, my friend and my first love, and remember her here. She died, maybe not before the age of social media, but before it was ubiquitous, so she left virtually no digital footprint. It’s a weird thing in this day and age: she doesn’t exist in the digital world, only in the minds and hearts of those who knew her, and in the art she left behind.

I don’t think she would ever have embraced social media, anyway. She valued her privacy intensely, and was in many ways a child of the old ways of the earth.

I remember the night she died. My mother met me as I was getting off work and gave me the news. I drove to a local bar and walked in to see my friends. Some of them were there, but they didn’t acknowledge me. They didn’t know what had happened yet; they just didn’t see me. I wondered later if I was invisible in that moment.

I got home and my girlfriend at the time had lit candles. I called Rebekkah’s mom, who had just returned from watching her daughter die before her eyes. I will never forget that conversation.

I was so hollowed out and emptied for so long and even today there is a persistent, throbbing ache in the place in my heart where I keep her.

I remember the second to last time we saw each other. She had moved back to our little rural community to try and work some things out. I saw her at a party and we talked and laughed. It came time for her to leave and I walked her out. On the stairs, she kissed me, chastely, on the lips. We hadn’t been lovers since high school so it was intense to feel those lips again. That’s all that happened. I felt like she needed something. Not necessarily something physical, but a connection. Help of some kind. I couldn’t give it.

I am so proud that she was the girl – a girl at the time, as I was just a boy – to introduce me to love, to sex, to initiate me into those mysteries. She was a dear, deep, strange, beautiful soul. She should still be here. I love her.

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