My pager began buzzing as I sat with my boyfriend, on his couch at the end of Memorial Weekend, 1996. It was past midnight. I looked at the number and saw it was a 911 from my parents’ phone number.
I ran out of the house, jumped in my car and headed home, only a five minutes’ drive away.
At the stop sign at the end of the street I prayed frantically, “Please God, not my dog or my sister. Please God, not my dog or my sister,” then turned onto Middle Ridge. A left onto Melville Lane, speeding down the street, eyes wide, the car bounced over the hump into the driveway. I leapt from the car and went to the garage door. I jammed my key in the lock, unlocked the door, then viciously yanked it from the door. I burst into the garage and ran across the cement to the kitchen door. Again, I viciously rammed the key in and pushed the door open. Pushing open the door into the dark kitchen, I yanked the key out and said, “What? What is it? Where’s Sadie?” Sadie was upstairs in her crate. It was dark. I walked into the eating area, toward the family room. My dad was there, sitting on the couch, his head in his hands. My mom appeared. One of them, which was it? One of them said to me, “It’s Lisa. She’s gone.”
I backed away from them, shaking my head. “No. No.” I kept backing up away from them, “No, fuck you. You’re lying!” I backed into the wall with a bump and at that moment something shut down inside of me. Something clicked. Clicked off.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I called her apartment. I knew something was wrong, I knew it. A cop answered the phone and said she was…gone.” My mother explained through tears. The house was dark. “Can you call back and find out what’s going on?”
I dialed my sister’s phone number in Beverly Hills.
My life would never be the same. My parents’ lives would never be the same. I would never be the same.
I listened to the phone ringing. Someone picked up, a woman’s voice. “Officer Such and such.”
“Hi. You’re in my sister’s apartment. What happened?”
“Uh, ma’am, it appears she killed herself.” The Officer answered. For a moment, I am silent.
“Is there a note?”
“It appears she left a message with Scrabble pieces. It says uh, ‘I love you all.’”
My clever sister. Only she would leave a suicide note with Scrabble pieces. “Ma’am, what would you like us to do with the key? Or should we leave the door unlocked?”
As I spoke with the cop, I saw my mother retreat through the doorway into the dark dining room. I heard my father sniffling in the family room behind me. This sound yanked at my stomach and scored my nerves.
“No. No. Don’t touch anything. Don’t move anything. Take the key and we’ll pick it up when we get there. We’re taking the first flight out.”
I pushed “end” on the phone and looked into the dark doorway where my mother had gone. I walked over. “Ma?” She appeared in the doorway, out of the darkness. I took her hands in mine. I think my dad came closer, but I can’t be sure.
My mother whispered, “Did someone…did someone…hurt her?”
“No, Ma,” I clamped down on any emotion that even considered showing its ugly face, took a breath and stammered, “She…she did it.”
My mom let out an anguished, “Oh!” Then, looked at me with her mascara-and-tear-stained face, eyes wet, “How can you not be crying? What’s the matter with you?!”
I went up to my room to see my Sadie dog, pack, and call my boyfriend.
As I packed, I grew more and more furious. I picked up a white jewelry gift box and hurled it across the room, against a wall. It slammed against the wall then landed on my bed, popped open to show me the sterling earrings inside. From behind me my mother said, “What are you doing! Lisa gave you those!”
I looked at them, did not recognize them.
I continued packing while I waited for my boyfriend. I called my work and left a message. I called my therapist and left, then deleted, three messages until I figured out what to say. It was two-thirty in the morning. I said in the message she didn’t have to call back, but she did. I had only been seeing her since mid-March. It was the end of May.
I ended up out in the driveway, smoking a cigarette. I had been trying to get a flight out of Dulles to LAX, but my dad had taken over that task, so there I was, in the driveway, nearly three am, Monday, May 27, 1996. I paced the driveway, chain-smoked Marlboro Lights, and jabbered to the stars. “Why her? Why her? It should have been me. Oh, they are gonna be so pissed. She was the favorite. It should have been me.” I was thinking of family and friends who would find out and be devastated, and how they’d be better off if it had been me. The stars glared back at me, their black background cold and quiet.