The world suddenly looks like a caricature when you open a Facebook message informing you that your friend is dead.
You keep waiting for someone to post the witty punchline, because that's what Facebook is for. This is obviously a cruel practical joke. You are angry at your friend for allowing the joke to go on this long. Why won't she post a status update, dispelling the rumors? Stupid Facebook.
Watching the rain that is now blowing sideways across the yard, you huddle on the phone with a mutual friend, refusing to believe, because refusal will make it not-so. You hang up to make dinner, as if this sort of conversation happens every day, and leftover homemade pizza is the next event in the natural sequence.
But your mutual friend has connections, and she calls you again to confirm that this absurdity is real. Together, and then again alone, you begin to gather the story, thinking that maybe it will make more sense once you have all of the pieces. You comb through the posts on her Facebook wall. You look at her text messages. You spend hours on the phone, with friends, discussing the events leading up to this disaster. You play Nancy Drew. But you're an amateur, and try as you may, the pieces don't fit together.
It's simply absurd.
Because this is not the sort of thing that happens to your friends, your warrior women friends. This is what happens on Fox News: women recently separated from their husbands dying inexplicably in hotel rooms in Atlantic City, with their children nestled up against them, one under the crook of each arm.
You weep over silly things, like the message she sent asking you to join her for hot yoga, to which you replied that you couldn't cheat on your own beloved teacher, but that you'd get back to her. You think about the last time you saw her, and you hate that you can't remember the last time you saw her.
You weep for her children, for their terminated innocence, for the loss of their true north. She was their world, and they hers. You are the sort of person who helps people, and there is not a thing you can do to fix this kind of broken.
You hate that she is a hazy memory already, brilliant, silhouetted by the sun, as if you've Photoshopped her with "Outer Glow." You are standing with her on the dry part of the rocky creek bed, wordless, watching her children and yours skip stones across the surface of the water. She slips away from you like the water in the creek, carrying the boat-branches downstream.
You hold her, and your grief, and the whole world, in your heart.