Myself and my friend, Sharon Cretsinger, a fan of her writing, have decided to write our own respective memorials for Jennifer Reimer. Jennifer will have died a year ago on April 14. I helped contribute to her website, Practice of Madness, but was informed by Sharon that she actually has a fan base among literary circles that is much stronger than just the 3000 who liked her website on Facebook. I'm posting my remembrance a little early so that Sharon can have her work published closer to the actual anniversary of her passing.
Allowing Jennifer in to my life like I did was a new thing for me. I dated without a great deal of effort growing up. I grew up surrounded by estrogen - my mom, my sisters, their friends and mostly female roommates that my mom rented her home out to. My sisters are psychologically abusive and my mom treated me like a space alien for quite a long time.
I dated but my various experiences with the women in my life overpowered them. I kept thinking of my sisters and the anger I feel towards them popped in. That dynamic shifted in my life for me to allow Jennifer in as I did. There were a number of things that did it - I stayed with my uncle on Guam for roughly half a year and was subjected to the trauma, anger and madness that my sisters and mom had, making me realize it was a family thing and not a gendered thing. I haven't talked to my sisters or uncle in good amount of time and don't plan to. My life is what I want to make it.
I knew about Jennifer's problems. It was hard not to connect the dots. I generally like women who both are attractive and can keep pace with me intellectually. The most intelligent and intellectual of us sometimes tend to attract to drugs and society leads women toward eating disorders with any number of unfair body image expectations.
I had never really let a woman in to my life at the level I did with Jennifer ever, however. I had had girlfriends sometimes for a pretty healthy amount of time but I didn't cohabitate, follow them through medical screenings, talk to their parents regularly and try to protect them from themselves as I did with her.
I was pretty damn stressed out during that period. My blood pressure was at an unbelievably high 170, rolling right in to hypertension. My neighbors said I looked "really stressed out." Jen's drug adventures, her neediness, her self-destruction all were breaking me down to the point she worried about me leaving her on her website.
There was some initial discussion between me and her dad to create some sort of project around her - a book or just maintaining the site. While Jen is definitely an experience that will always be part of me, it is obviously much more substantial for her father. A project isn't really something he could deal with emotionally. I still have a bunch of her art on my FB account. I think some of it is gallery worthy but am not really sure how to go about such things.
There have been moments in which I've felt anger about the situation - that I was left to clean up such a situation but, as she told me weeks before she died, "you knew all of this going in, Michael." I allowed that experience to occur and it should enrich me with empathy instead of fear that the same situation will repeat. I don't regret any of it. I really don't. It was traumatic, it was messed up and it was terrifying. I have a close female friend who recently told me about a critical illness she had and the fear became so intense that I really realized this was something that was going to stick with me. Nevertheless, that is a fear that perhaps I need to feel as it makes me value the presence of those I love while they still are here.
Most of the women I grew up with were overbearing and mean. With Jennifer, I saw the suffering of a beautiful woman and the ultimate toll that it took on her. It really was a life changing experience - it pushed a new level of empathy in to my life that I never had before. Nearly all her friends and family seemed to either contact me or my mother and, while some were mentally ill or otherwise messed up, some are now included amongst my best friends, our common love for this conflicted and gifted woman our uniting bond that makes us friends for life.
Be at peace, little angel. We'll meet again. No one is forgetting about you.