In my one and a half years at the university, I've managed to make one friend. Several acquaintances, sure, but only one friend. The effort was entirely hers. There aren't many of us non-traditionally aged students skulking about, and when she recognized me as one of her kind, she went out of her way to sit next to me, continue sitting next to me, ask me questions and generally chit-chat her way through my 10 foot wall of resistance. Eventually, I was glad she did.
I spent months in the rather uncomfortable postion of growing closer and closer to a person whose name I did not know. I could only assume she must have introduced herself to me one of those first few days we sat together, but of course her name didn't come anywhere near registering. When I talked about her with Mister, I called her the Fusa Lady because that's what I knew. I knew she lived in Fusa (a much, much longer commute every morning than mine); I knew she had three kids, and that her husband was a high school teacher. She had worked as a meteorologist for many years, but grew tired of the late hours and holiday shifts, so was reeducating herself as a high school science teacher so she and her husband would have the same schedule. She was five years older than me. I finally learned her name in October, just before the mid-term exam, when I reached down to pick up the calculator she had dropped. She had taped a lable with her name and phone number on the back that I craftily memorized before I handed it back to her. Marit E. Tuft. My chemistry friend's name was Marit E. Tuft.
Last night, when I read that there had been a car accident in Fusa--two adults killed, three children and two other adults injured--I wondered briefly about the Fusa Lady. But nah, I thought, what are the odds? I should have known better, I guess. Fusa is a pretty small community, after all.
The names of the victims were released this afternoon, and oh how my heart breaks to say it, but Marit and her husband were killed last night. Their three children were in the car with them; they sustained only slight injuries.
I'm a little blown away by the crushing strength of my reaction to this news. I mean, I only knew her for a little over 5 months, and it's not like I ever met her husband or kids. But we talked about our families a lot together. I know what her kids got for Christmas. Not long ago we showed each other pictures of our babies, and laughed about how quickly the time goes, how quickly they change.
And I'm wondering--God, I can't stop wondering--what would she say now, right now, about how she had chosen to spend the last months of her life. Of course she didn't know they were the last months, none of us can know. But would it have been worth it to her? The stuffy lecture halls, the daily grind of juggling the family, the kids, the household with the long commute and the homework. And all that stress around exam time? These are the things we talked most about. This is what we had in common.
I'm just having the hardest time processing the finality of it all. This is a first for me--the sudden death of someone my own age, someone that I knew. We took the same bus home last Friday. I keep trying to remember if she told me her plans for the weekend. She probably did, but I wasn't listening enough to remember them. I'm beating myself up over this negligence as if it matters. I should have listened closer. Paid more attention. I'm sorry, Marit. I'm so unbearably sorry.