Tuesday, September 15, 2015

She Was...

It was about three years ago, just before the London Ontario Tweetup, that we tried to cajole her to come meet us with promises of hiding under tables and eating Skittles and drinking vodka with her. That year she thought about it but ultimately declined. There was anxiety.

The following year, the first Toronto Tweetup, we mentioned it and then didn't talk to her about it again...and she came! We grabbed her and held her and marveled at the physical being that was her. You know how it is, when you finally meet a friend face-to-face.

The whole "being at the Tweetup" didn't last long. Ultimately we ditched the whole thing, along with James, Nettie, and Cliff, and took off on adventures on our own. (You can read about it here: http://just-call-me-frank.blogspot.com/2014/06/choose-your-own-adventure-tweetup.html)

That weekend, sometime after 2am at a hero Burger on Queen St, eating Skittles off of the table, we're pretty sure this is when Nettie officially became The Skittles. Officially.
We've never spent time with her where she didn't have bags of them stashed in her purse (or where she was stashing them in ours *smiles wistfully*)

Shortly after last summer's Toronto Tweetup we got a message from her saying she would be on her way through the area, off to visit family in western Canada, and could she swing down for few days visit with her man (Don) and Goo (her son), and then stay again on her way back home. This was an obvious treat having seen her not that long ago, so we said yes.

She ended up being here the hottest parts of the summer, and our house has no air conditioning. We ended up spending sweltering days together lounging on the furniture, her with her notebook and pen, Goo with his digital games, just existing comfortably.
Honestly it was so comfortable having her here that we don't even recall how we passed all of the time - it must have been close to six days total - aside from eating home cooked meals, hanging out in the backyard around a fire, and all the excitement that comes with having an autistic (eight year old?) boy in the house for the first time (it was a learning experience!).

Except for one night.

The day had been beyond hot, the air still, unmoving and clinging. You could tell something was brewing, the air had that feel and the environment had that pallor all through the day, turning that strange yellowy green that it does on hot summer afternoons right before something fun happens. You could see pregnant dark clouds inching their way in from the west, eventually they got so close we walked out to the end of the block to marvel at them, which is pretty much the west edge of town, and to see the first pulses of lightening. And then suddenly you could see a wave of dust forming, rolling closer, and the wind all of a sudden just went nuts. This area of the county isn't exactly a stranger to tornadoes. Screaming with excitement and getting hit with the first drops of rain, we all turned and ran for the safety of the house.

We got into the house and the wind kept picking up, the lightening got stronger and closer, the thunder boomed. Then the lights went out. We lit candles and discussed playing board games and pondered at other ways in which we could pass the time. By this time the worst parts of the storm had skirted the town, as it usually does, and we were left in the center of walls of lightening, ominous clouds and considerable wind, because the heat of the day was still contained in the house, and the candles were adding to the stickiness with every minute, we came to a conclusion.

Let's go out and chase this thing around the countryside. It was bound to be cooler anywhere but here.

We all piled into the 4Runner, buckling Goo (her son) into the center of the backseat telling him that the adults were going to do something very silly right now. Chasing storms in the Midwest isn't exactly the safest activity, kids.

And we drove around for what must have been an hour, stopping so Nettie could jump out and take pictures here and there (she loved to take pictures), like at the graveyard at the edge of town where she took some great photos, and speculating on where to go next for great views.

It was a great summer, and that is a favorite memory.

This past June Cliff and Nettie agreed to have a sort of reunion and go the the Toronto Tweetup again. So we went, James happily in tow because these are a few of his favorite people.

We made them dinner at the AirBnb condo we rented downtown, a four course meal with ingredients sourced from St. Lawrence Market. Of course, we all agreed to make an appearance at some of the Tweetup events, but ultimately we ditched everyone (again) and went to other places, quieter places, to drink and talk about music and politics and life and this and that and everything.

The next day we woke up and met for Mimosas at Cliff's hotel room (a tradition) and then walked to the old Distillery District to try out artisan chocolate and eat fancy Mexican food, and walk from floor to floor of the Case Goods Warehouse and Cannery Building critiquing the art that graced the walls. Sometimes critiquing with knowledge and expertise, sometimes with silliness.
That night we walked around town in the dark trying to find random art parties, talking, enjoying each other's company.
The next day, Sunday, we had brunch at the AirBnb condo and sat around, more talking, laughing. We signed the painting we had created for Nettie, which she inspired with her words, and sent it off to its new home.

People must have thought us supremely antisocial whenever we were at Tweetups together, or maybe even rude, but the thing that made this little group of friends great is the independent streak they recognized in each other, as well as shared passion for writing, arts, and a common intellect (though, Nettie was always so much smarter when it came to many things).  We were fast friends from the start, through the years on Twitter, where we met, and the time spent together in the non-digital world.

To be honest other than the times we'd hang out in person there was very little communication, digital or otherwise. And never phone calls. Just random message that said things like "<3 love you ^_^ drive by affection". We understood each other, the exhaustion that socializing tended to cause, the time that living in your own head, so to speak, and being creative, took up.
We enjoyed each other's company from sun-up, to almost sun-up again, whenever we spent time together. And it was a satisfying friendship that we were looking forward to experiencing for years to come.

We were just on the cusp of planning a trip to Viva Las Vegas in April, calendars had been marked, hearts had been sent.

She was amazing, super smart and fun, and full of complexity. And such a patient mom with Goo.
And the way she could spin words; she had such a talent and love for writing, like writing was the only way she knew how to breathe. She paved her own path with words. She truly was a renegade soul.

She was one of the few people we've known that felt genuine.

This last Saturday she passed away in her sleep, just shy of a week from what would have been her 33rd birthday.

Nobody can explain it.
The autoposy rendered inconclusive results. The tox screens will take nearly half a year for anything to be discovered. But like Cliff said...at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what the tox screen says.

It's completely unfair that she's gone. And waves of disbelief will ripple alongside those of grief for years.

Our heart aches for her husband and Goo. Especially Goo. Sometimes it seemed Nettie and he had their own special language. It's hard to imagine the confusion he is going through right now. Hearts ache for Nettie's entire family, friends she had that we didn't know, everybody whose life she touched. And she did. She touched many.

She was just embarking on a new adventure of marketing her writing and her art. You could just tell she was excited by all the prospects of the future, the possibilities, the people (in her own introvert way).

She will live on in the ones and zeros of the digital world, her art and her words live here. Whenever we find ourselves missing her, wanting for her words, the beauty she created, we can find her in the volumes she left behind, the volumes of herself, raw and gritty, beautiful and light.

She was wrong when she said she wasn't a firework yet. She'd always been a firework. But the kind that's safe to hold onto...full of promise and beauty and sparks.

(From her Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/ClubNettePrintShop?ref=search_shop_redirect)

Sweetheart. You have been imprinted. We will never forget you. <3