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78 THEN SHE FLEW AWAY The problem with dying in private is that the rest of us don’t get to watch it happen, and things that happen without us seem less real, not quite finished, maybe even impossible. —Sarah Manguso She climbed the stairs. She found her ledge, that hiding spot. That safety. She sat down not knowing what to do next, but preparing for something. Considering. Brain space tangled up in the logic of if she should do this. She was no longer safe in her life, could no longer find that sense of solace. She walked up five flights to find it. Sofie’s journal lies in front of me, looking up, expectantly, asking if I really want to do this. I do want to do this. At least I think I do. I think so. Maybe. So. Journal opened. There, right there. A phrase inked into the inside cover of that new journal, the one I bought her, a tool to help extract the toxins rooted deep. So severely internal. Eternal. Her inscription: Last night I watched myself sleep then I flew away. Then She Flew Away | 79 Does her journal speak truth? Did Sofie really witness herself sleep then fly? A soothing dream remembered? Though maybe it’s a lyric to a favorite song. Or poem. I could look this up, could scour the Internet to find my answer. But I resist, do not want to research it. I want to hope, need to believe that the beauty of those words came from her. That something inside her spoke serenity, could compose such tranquility. My job was to just be there. “There” being a transitional residency for homeless youth with drug addiction and mental illness issues. I worked overnights, was there for the youth to come and talk to if there was something they needed to talk about. No professional license here, no MSW or LPC or LMSW or LMHC or PhD or MD or any of those letters that say you can help someone. I was just a woman with a sober heart, with a steady and medicated brain, with a belief in each youth’s sobriety, there to help them talk through their issues instead of shooting them up or glugging them down or inhaling with a hope that it would all just dissipate, like smoke. Last night I watched myself sleep then I flew away. Reading Sofie’s journal cleaves me. The pages break into a shattered mind, fracture the rhythm of my heart trying to beat beyond the bottomless canyons of why? Because grief is a continuous echo. 80 | Chelsey Clammer A ritual: Apartment 302. Top floor. Corner unit. The one with bookcases and Christmas lights and thumbtacked images ripped from magazines—the constantly growing collages of angry rappers and tortured rock stars covering thin putty walls. After meds, past 10:00 p.m., Sofie was always a lump on her bed. I saw her sleeping so many times, woke her up so many times to check her sobriety. The breathalyzer putting booze in check. Memories of standing above her, briefly watching her sleep—heavily—before I reached down and tapped her shoulder . Her resting place just a mattress and box spring slapped on the floor. Clothes scattered about—a symptom of her depression . Each night she was a body of melancholy crashed on a bed, a body that slowly rolled back over, away from me, after blowing a sober breath. Each night I blew out the black candles flickering on her floor as I left. I didn’t see Sofie fly. Though at times she appears in my dreams. I fall asleep and can see, no, feel her fly, can breathe in the beauty of that illusion, that image of a soft escape. Because gravity pushed her down five stories, crashed her onto the ground. But in my dreams, she flew. In The Guardians, Sarah Manguso writes about her best friend who escaped from a psych ward, and ten hours later, threw himself in front of a train. As she grapples with how Then She Flew Away | 81 to understand and accept this event, she meditates on death and suicide, writes to figure out how to tell the story of her dead best friend. But, she discovers, “My friend died—that isn’t a story.” There is no plot here. Just a woman, falling. In the video I made to document the weekend I took Sofie and three other youth...


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MARC Record
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