It took me a very long time to even begin to find the words to talk about you, about the loss of you. This is what I read at your memorial service on October 18.
I have always thought that you were the most aptly-named person in the world. “Aura” evokes, in an instant, the luminous, the literary, and the mysterious. You were mysterious in the very best way. Now, especially, I am struck by how insufficiently I knew you, how much I wish I had made the long trek to Brooklyn much more often. Monica and I met to share our memories of you a couple of months ago. Previous to our meeting, I had assumed that Monica knew you infinitely better than I, but we both discovered as we talked that we each held different parts of you, that you had so much to share with us, that your spirit was so generous, that everyone who knew you held a unique piece.
I first met you five years ago, when we were both starting grad school at Columbia. We were both terrified at the prospect of performing intellectually, of sharing our ideas about literature in front of so many people, and it was such a relief to confess our mutual terror to each other. I realized immediately that you were among the more glamorous of our fellow students, but you were not intimidating in the slightest, partly because you were never condescending and partly because you often made me doubt whether or not you were even remotely aware of how beautiful and intelligent you were. You were always surrounded by gorgeous objects: your clothes, your scarves, your ubiquitous lip tint, were objects that you made your own. They buttressed your incredible beauty and innate style. Your taste in all things—in books, ideas, people—was unique and inspiring.
Early in our first year of school, when you were still living near 120th Street, you invited us over for Mexican food, music, and conversation. This was the first time I met some of your other friends. You always had the most marvelous friends, from all over the world, rich with experience. I got the sense that you were always surrounded by talented, interesting writers, artists, and thinkers. And I felt that these connections were crucial to your immense energy. You were so energetic, always moving, always coming and going.
I think this was the first time you apologized unnecessarily for having gotten drunk. I say unnecessarily because, of course, we’d all been drunk, and we’d all had a fantastic time.
I think that on that evening you also told me about a man you thought you might be seeing again soon, someone exciting whom you’d first met months earlier. If memory serves me, you were debating something about your next meeting, you weren’t sure how things would turn out. But the next time you mentioned Frank, some months later, it was clear to me that you were hooked. And after you were properly together, something seemed to have clicked inside of you, and you were happy in a way I don’t think you’d ever been before.
I don’t know how to not inject causality into the past, how not to see the last night we spent together as a goodbye. You met Jannette and me for drinks in June, after we’d taught our summer classes. We talked and drank, and, because we hadn’t met up in so long, our happy hour turned into a very late night. This was the night you confessed that you’d been enrolled in the Hunter MFA program—we were duly shocked but finally understood why you’d been so incredibly busy last year. We talked about literature and neoliberalism, and, as usual, I was impressed by your keen sensibility and insight. Frank called at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning wondering where you were. You wanted to take the subway, but we convinced you to get into a cab. I was a little worried about you, even had a sense of foreboding, but then, like clockwork, the next day came, via e-mail, your unnecessary apology for having been so drunk. I smiled.
When I received that other e-mail, the one that said that you’d passed away, I thought, “No, it’s not possible. It's simply not possible because there’s so much left to write. I haven’t answered her last e-mail. She has to finish the dissertation we discussed just a few weeks ago, she has stories and novels inside of her. Stories that need to be written. Her work is not done.”
I did a lot of magical thinking afterwards. I found myself, a devout atheist, believing, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could still talk to you, that you could still hear us. And I persist in this belief. That’s why I can’t help but use the second person when I remember you now.
And now, I want you to hear that we mourn your absence, and we mourn all that you did not write, but I think that you gave us so much in your too-short life, so very much, that it will have to be enough.