I remember the last time I saw her. It was my high school’s 10-year reunion — the Riverview Academy Vikings class of 1992. We’d all graduated from college, taken over the family business or settled into a rough approximation of trying to act like grow-ups. Back then, we couldn’t imagine what it’d be like to be 30 — that frightening plateau when TV tells us we’re supposed to have it all figured out, though none of us ever do.
I didn’t want to be at the reunion. I’d just quit my job as features editor for the Opelika-Auburn News and, with a nice little inheritance, had rented a house in Montgomery, where I was going to write a novel.
I’d been in Montgomery for about six months, and while I wrote every day, I was really watching too much “Dawson’s Creek,” drinking red wine and reading books that made the future seem even more bleak and unfathomable than it already felt.
I wasn’t ready to grow up. (I’m still not, even with two kids and a mortgage.)
She had just moved to Seattle and was an aspiring actress. I was jealous of her courage to move so far away. We drank and laughed and talked about the old days. She made the rounds, while I clung to my cadre of friends, from whom I’d quietly drifted away over the years.
There was nothing especially memorable about our conversation. I wouldn’t be revisiting it at all were it not for the tragic news that Facebook delivered late last week.
Her name was Kimberly Layfield. She was murdered when a gunman opened fire at the Racer Café in Seattle.
Kimberly and I were Facebook friends and members of the Riverview Academy page. I hadn’t visited either in ages until Thursday afternoon, when my phone started blurting nonstop. When I read the posts, all I could do was stare at the words from the crowd of mourners who gathered from all over the country to share their sorrow, their memories and their disbelief.
I hadn’t spoken to Kimberly in years, but with just a few clicks I was looking at pictures both old and new. It’s funny how the Kimberly of my memory — just a teenager — looked so much like the Kimberly in those photos — a woman surrounded by people I didn’t know, yet looking so happy and fulfilled and … promising.
What I remember about Kimberly, aside from her beauty, was that she was the kind of person others gravitated to.
In first grade, I was the dorky class clown, and she was totally out of my league. And yet we were friends. (Of course, in a graduating class of 36, there’s not a lot of room for cliques.) When she signed my annual the year we graduated, I was secretly thrilled when she took up a whole page.
I can’t read it now without crying — both from embarrassment for having ever been so young, and sadness as yet another light has been taken out of the world.
Kimberly wrote about going on spring break and hanging out on the playground, basketball games, my becoming a writer and the poems — which were really poorly disguised power ballads — I shared, trying to show my tender side.
“I only wish,” she wrote, “we had one more year or one more day.”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org