Listen, my children to your Akka so old,
For she has a story, which today should be told.
Once upon a time, well over a decade ago
Akka received a call from a voice whispering lowÂ…
“Help. Oh my GodÂ…I don’t know what to doÂ…”
“WaitÂ—Gigi? What’s happening to you?”
“Anneka, I can’t take it anymore; I just want to dieÂ…”
“Shhh, stopÂ…you’re a devout Catholic, I know that’s a lie.”
“WhatÂ…no smile? That’s hilarious, G. Laugh.”
But my own laugh faltered and fell back in my chest,
This was no cry for help, this didn’t feel like a test.
“Anneka, I love you, please always remember that,”
“You stupid bitch Geee, stop, take that back!”
“I won’t let you say Good-bye, this isn’t the end,
I refuse to let you take away my best friend.
I know you feel like you are already dead,
I know about the demons in your heart and your head.
But please, don’t do this, it’s a permanent answer
To a temporary—
She sobbed, “This is worse than cancer,”
“At least then people would feel sorry forÂ—”
“Screw them, and if they judge youÂ…well, fuck them more.
I know; they and your past are impossible to ignoreÂ…
But I also know that I’ve never met anyone with a purer heart,
That you are spun from light and goodness, unlike this tart.
Gigi, where are you, I’m already in my car
Damnit, this is Davis, you can’t be that farÂ…”
“No, please, don’t. I’ve been enough of a burden to youÂ—”
“Gee, I swear to God, I’m going to find you and slap you.”
“Anneka, please don’t hate me for what I’m about to do,
Promise me you’ll forgive me, I’m so sorryÂ…I love you.”
“GIGI!” I screamed in to an ominously silent phone,
yanking the german car she loved over to the shoulder, alone.
Redial, redial, redial, at least twenty times
Tachycardiac beats and my breath form rhymes.“BREATHE PROPERLY Latha, you need to be calmÂ…”
I’m hyperventilating, I need a brown bag, I want my mom.
I feel crazed, like I can’t bear to be inside my skin,
My heart and my stomach take turns twisting, within.
“Am I okay to drive?” I whimper to the me in the rearview
“Do you have a choice??” my reflection hisses back, on cue.
During a race to west Davis, Yokohamas stain old tar
An illegal U-turn, a floored pedal, it’s not that far.
Brakes squeal, the front end bounces, fuck the 5 mph sign
I don’t care about parking lot rules when I’m in such a bind.
Daddy’s car is half on the sidewalk, half on a lawn once pristine
I’ll take what I need, this is now an emergency scene.
Jump out and run past dusty security cam,
Poor car is unalarmed because that’s not what I am.
“Hold on, Geee, I’m coming,” I murmur through tears
Everything is too quiet, increasing my fears.
I pound on the door, shouting her name
Then brace my shaking body with both hands on the frame.
I pound again, rattle a door knob, wish my shoulder were stronger,
Want to break down the door, want to keep her here longer.
I’m out of breath, out of heart, and I’m almost out of hope.
This time her voice sounded different, like she couldn’t cope
With what she had carried around inside of her for one anguished year.
Gigi, precious best friend, it took me a few minutes, but I’m here.
Dazed, I walked back to my car to try and call her home phone
To tell her that I’d hold her, that she would never be alone.
But there’s no answer, either from her cordless or my aching head
I’m consumed with terrifying possibility, replaying the words that she said.
I force myself to attend my favorite class; I’m trying not to cry.
Can’t focus on the the History of Mogul India, stare at lecturer’s tie.
Two hours later, merciful epiphany as defibrillatorÂ—
Rush to my sorority house, suddenly I’m an investigator
Enter my security code, open sesame, open DG,
rush for the basement door, trip down stairs clumsily.
Suppress the nausea rising from my core,
Stumble over rush-related clutter on the floor.
Inside the filing cabinets, lyrics, financials, info for pledges
I almost miss the hot pink hanging folder with such frayed edgesÂ…
“C.O.B. 1995″ There should be just six apps within
Jesus, DG and Jen (our Pres), forgive me for this sin.
“Fernandes, Gisele Grace” is shoved in my Jansport ski, then there were five.
“Please God, Mary, anyone, please just keep her aliveÂ…”
Back in goes pink, inside the drawer, inside dust-covered steel.
Up I go, up old stairs, though it’s only down that I feel.
“Anneka! What are you DOING?” someone haughtily inquires.
“Nothing, Whitney, go back to ‘Days’.” I leave, avoiding quagmires.
Inside my car, I whip out her file and scan for what I needÂ…
“Permanent phone: (510)Â…-Â….”
Gigi laid out like thisÂ…it’s almost unbearable to read.
Shaking hands dial cell while quaking lungs inhale.
Far away, in the east bay there’s ringingÂ…
Â…my arms look like Braille.
Tiny, tinny voice tentatively lilts a “Hullo?”
The most difficult thing I’ve had to askÂ…can I do this? No.
“Hi AuntieÂ…I’m Anneka, I go to Davis. I’m Gigi’s best–”
“I think I know you. You are her Indian friend, yes?”
“Yes. Auntie, I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’m worried. Is Gigi okay?”
“No, my dearÂ…she isn’t. Gigi overdosed earlier today.”
I left my car in front of the DG house, in a space which wasn’t mine,
To sleepwalk through traffic on Russell, crossing double yellow lines.
Numb and lost, nauseous with guilt, I traipsed through the MU,
Through the quad, then past Shields, I passed Mrak hall, too.
Down by the still green water, amid the ducks and dirt,
Fell to my knees on soggy ground, punch drunk from all the hurt.
Closed watering eyes, let sobs implode, shook like I was on fault
Nursed torturous guilt like it was a glass of rare Clynelish malt
Had she been on the other side of the front door which I feebly attacked?
Or at her Doctor-parentsÂ’ home instead, which was predictably drug-packed?
Oh, Gigi, why? How could you do, you do not do
Even ifÂ…itÂ…was so wrenching to live through.
Good Indian girls donÂ’t ever get knocked up,
In fact, good Indian girls, they never fuck up.
Good Indian girls get rid of their issues
(Except when they are Catholic, then they need tissues.)
Handmaiden of God Gigi wore her crucifix to mass
said rosaries of innocent wishes semi-weekly, before class.
Meanwhile, Dominatrix Anna made livid CRs bicker
her backpack festooned with an Â“Another Republican for CHOICEÂ” bumper sticker.
But Gigi was the one who ended up having to choose,
Gigi was the girl with everything to lose.
Pre-med Gigi, always sober and responsible
Biochem major Gigi, lying half-dead in the hospital.
Our lady of sorrows, last year died on a table
Our angel Gigi, was never again stable.
Penitent Gigi never forgave herself
Suicidal Gigi, because she hated herself.
Unwilling enigma Gigi, did your parents know?
Where Gigi the sinner and I once had to go?
If they did, do they know you did it to protect them,
You sacrificed your sanity so your error wouldnÂ’t affect them.
You swallowed your misery as your Mother railed about Roe v Wade
You wept to me later on the phone about the mess you had made.
You are still an angel, a lady, our GigiÂ’s still good.
You did everything as well as you possibly could.
I refuse to believe in a deity who would hate you.
I refuse to condone those who would berate you.
I refuse to forget the look on your face in that recovery room
I refuse to forgive your bastard ex- Â“DevÂ”, who fled so soon.
I refuse to give up on you, on women, on whatÂ’s right,
I refuse to let the cross round my neck turn noose-tight.
I wish I could show your Mom and other Â“prayer warriorsÂ” your pain.
I wish theyÂ’d grok how your agony never wanes.
I wish they understood that no one giddily throws a post-abortion fete.
I wish they were as compassionate as the example Jesus set.
I wish they believed me when I said I think life begins at conception
I wish they understood voting for choice wonÂ’t send me in hellÂ’s direction.
Precious Gigi didnÂ’t deserve self-imposed death sentences;
Gigi deserved love, babies and white picket fences.
We disagreed for four years whenever we argued,
On our way to class, in the car, on the phone, over food…
But those dozens of times we debated the morality of a doctor’s knife,
Darling Gigi of mine, I was pro-choice because I was pro- your life.
Names and certain details have been altered to protect the rights of a survivor who got what she deservedÂ—a simple kind of life with her husband and children in Northern California.