My Ride or Die Bitch died.
Ride or Die. Invented by bikers, adopted by soccer moms, or baseball moms, or dance moms. Adopted by suburban moms. Making mom friends is hard, doubly so as I moved here shortly after my first son was born and knew no one. A few attempts to join moms clubs failed miserably, they already had their crew and a new chick was not welcome thank you very much.
“It will get better when he starts preschool.” my mother in law reassured me one night when I confessed I was so lonely. In Los Angeles, I had true real girlfriends, the kind that are more family than friend and through facebook and texting we talked all the time, but I was still alone, in a town knowing no one and no one to talk too except my husband, in-laws and my toddler. And all he wanted to talk about was Yo Gabba Gabba. I am a person who needs her girlfriends and making great girlfriends has always been my superpower.
My mother in law was right, as she often is, and when my son Max started preschool there was a little girl in his class with white blond hair and aqua eyes and they took to each other right away. Her grandmother sometimes dropped her off and we chatted, then one fateful day her mother picked her up from school and that, as they say, was that. Her name was Kristen and she was everything I am not. Self-confident in an easy way, athletic, not- fussy. She rolled in in athletic wear, a headband and her hair up in a messy bun, she cracked a wry joke and we mated for life as friends right then and there. I don’t even know how our friendship progressed, but over those three years of preschool, we spent more and more time together joining our families for holidays and events. Texting every single day random bullshit thoughts and things to make each other laugh.
She was without a doubt and with no exaggeration one of the best human beings ever, and I wish you had known her because even a fleeting encounter with her left your faith in humanity restored. She was GOOD without being perfect, or precious, she was human and flawed and funny and just…ride or die.
She was always the first one to show up for a crisis and even better, the first to show up for a celebration. She had an endless energy, her moral code was strong, but she made no excuses for being human, her college days…well, let’s say that’s a story for another day. She was the product of two amazing, strong parents and I had never met anyone like her in the entire world.
Except one, who although totally different had the same balls-to-the-wall joy of life and relentless energy and code.
They both died of cancer. Carrie of lung cancer and Kristen of thymic carcinoma. The world is unfair.
Kristen’s cancer took her quickly, by the time the tumor was found it was large and pressing on her lungs. Chemo was scheduled and despite my trying to come and visit her after it, she would insist on showing up on my doorstep with milkshakes or something, wanting to get out and visit “while she could.” It never really occurred to me she would die, Kristen was as badass as they come, obviously she would kick cancer’s ass. Chemo worked and then it didn’t. So surgery was scheduled. I should have done more, we texted before she went in, and her family was there taking care of her, but I should have sent something funny to her hospital room. But where Kristen had endless energy, I was paralyzed.
She was at my hospital bed hours after my daughter arrived with steak tacos and champagne. Popping the champagne to celebrate woke my tiny newborn and she cried and we laughed and joked for the next three years that Piper would forever be traumatized by Auntie Kristen and champagne. The plan was, as soon as she was able to have visitors, to bring steak tacos and champagne to her hospital room. To pop that cork and make her laugh just enough but not enough to hurt her. Chest surgery is no joke. Instead, I was standing in the middle of Ikea when I got the call. She made it through the surgery and we were on cloud nine, but the cancer had spread to her brain and 24 hours later she was gone. The world went sideways and I’m not sure it’s righted itself yet.
Every day I miss her, I go to text her. So many things happen and she would just howl with laughter and she is not here to share them. She teasingly called her angelic-looking daughter with the long blond hair and aqua eyes “Regina George” because that girl has a wit that can cut with surgical precision. She’s a 9-year-old and she is stronger than I have ever been, and we teased but we love it. I want to tell Kristen that the little one she scared with the champagne is following in Regina George’s footsteps.
The other day Piper looked at me and said: “Mommy, Miss Kristen was your best friend.”
“Yes, she did.” And then staring at me like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter my 3 year old said: “I’m your best friend now.”
Kristen would have fucking loved that. I can hear her laughter now. I wanted so badly to text her, but I can’t cause my ride or die bitch died and I am so mad about it.
Two days after she died my coffee maker flipped out. I pushed brew and the lights flashed and the beeps beeped and nothing happened. I hadn’t really cried, I was numb and talking to her family trying not to insert myself too much but wanting to be there all the time. I needed my coffee. Because even when your ride or die bitch dies kids still have to go to school, permission slips need to be signed, baseball games still happen, the world keeps turning. I lost my mind on that coffee maker. Pushing all the buttons, unplugging it and plugging it back in screaming at it in an ever growing hysteria. Finally, just sinking to the floor, banging my head on the cabinets and crying. Keening. Of course, it wasn’t about the coffee maker. Eventually, my little daughter crawled into my arms and I held her tight and cried. She pulled my face up and just said “Miss Kristen?” Because three-year-olds are wiser than we give them credit for. I needed that cry.
My coffee maker had never done that before and it has worked perfectly every day since. If you believe in that sort of thing, and I kinda do, then that was my bitch KG forcing me forward, just like she always did. I can imagine her laughing “that’ll make her really lose it! And she needs too.” and she’d be right. Perhaps “ride or die” goes beyond death.
As Mother’s Day passed I thought of her mother and her daughter, wanting to call and not being able to make myself because I knew I would be a blubbering mess, and disappointed in myself because not only would Kristen have called but she would have dropped off flowers before everyone woke up. “Thinking about you.” the card would have said. Instead I did nothing but miss her and wish I could be more like her without actually doing anything to be more like her. “Come ON Stearns!” I hear her urging me to jump off the diving board or pitch a baseball, I am risk averse and she leaped in with a joyous freedom.
Reminding me of what Carrie once told me before cancer took her too quickly “You can’t fly if you don’t jump out of the plane!’ I had told her I would surely plummet to the ground and she laughed saying I’d get it eventually.
Kristen got it.
Maybe it’s not Ride OR Die. It’s ride and die, or ride through death… She might not be on this planet, I can’t text her every little thought and I can’t get the chime letting me know she had something to share, but she affects me every day. Even if I can’t call, yet. I will.
My Ride or Die Bitch changed my life, she showed me how making mistakes doesn’t mean I AM a mistake. She showed me so many things. My Ride or Die bitch checked out way to early, but I am still Ride Or Die for her and with her, until I die. And if there is an afterlife I bet you she will be waiting with Steak Tacos and Champs and giving me that devilish look saying “You like that thing with the coffee maker?”
Yeah, bitch, I did.
Ride till death, and then keep riding.