At semi-regular intervals, she spoke to save her life, or something like it.
Monday, July 22, 2002
Julia Lynn Presley, October 23, 1968-August 12, 1999
Julia has been dead for almost three years now. No one knows why she isn't alive today. After three years her death still seems shockingly absurd and meaningless. I can't hear the Beatles' "Julia" without thinking of her absence.
I first saw her in the "Self-Help" section of Borders while I worked there, feeling the hours cave in one at a time at the information booth. She was there with Rinoti, and they were ripping apart the various titles aimed at self-hating women-- stuff like "The Rules," "Soul Mates", etc. They were both so clever and beautiful, wickedly so, and I couldn't take my eyes off them. I'd just moved to Long Beach, and didn't know that they were, in fact, my neighbors.
She wanted so to escape her terrible marriage. As we became friends, I could see it, that she was trapped there, and was plotting a way to leave. So when her husband called me the next morning to tell me Julia was "gone" and wouldn't be going out dancing as we'd planned, I thought she'd left him and was relieved. But as he repeated it I realized she was gone for good, that she had died, and immediately I was angry that this was the way she'd escaped, and he, alcoholic, possessive and oblivious to her pain, was still around to call me.
She had this biting sense of humor-- a take no prisoners approach to ridiculing the world. We would joke about how when we tried to buy our wedding dresses the sales people basically said we were too fat to get married. That the dress thing would be impossible for us-- how dare we be happy. But she made me laugh about it-- as if the joke were on the rest of the world, and we, the fat girls, were the ones who could really see the bullshit for what it was. She was powerful and made me feel powerful, too.
She would say, finish your novel because I need something good to read. And I finished it.
After her death I went to Europe. She'd loaned me her tour guides just days before, saying how she was going to go again, how she loved England. So every cemetery I went to in England--how lovely they were, how perfect-- and the whole force of my body called out her name, almost as a reflex, as something I did without thinking. It seemed impossible that she would not be there, here, anymore.
Any detailed news of her death I've gotten from Rinoti. She told me that in the ambulance Julia had said she couldn't breathe, and then she said she was afraid to die. This is something I can't live with, picturing her scared and not ready. I haven't figured out how to live with this.
Julia had a pretty red Jetta with a black interior, and it suited her perfectly. It wasn't until after her death that I began to think of it as a kind of get-away car, and it made me sad to see it parked out front of their house, unused. A few days after her death I had a dream I was driving her Jetta. In my waking life I don't drive, but when I drive in my dreams it's usually a Mr. Toad kind of affair, but not this time-- I was behind the wheel and in control. She was beside me in the passenger seat. I said, "Julia-- you're dead." as if she'd dyed her hair, as if it were a casual observation. She thought this was hilarious, and said that's why she didn't need the car anymore, and that I could have it, that she wanted me to drive it.
I told this dream to my husband and he took it literally, saying something like-- "P. will never let you have the car. He'll sell it." This response seems absurd, except for the fact that her dream had stunned us profoundly, and the dream seemed to make more sense than the reality we'd been living in the wake of her death. I knew in the dream she was telling me something, and I haven't had the courage to heed it-- unless, of course, the dream means more than a prompting to learn to drive. If the dream means something like "Go-- be what you've seen in me!" Then I have, slowly, little by little. I've kept writing, I've promised to go back to England even if I have to go by myself. I've tried to be as brave as she was.