I don't know how many of you know this, and I don't mind sharing it, because I feel strongly about it. Im not looking for sympathy, since it happened so long ago, but I am talking about it because it is one of those things that I do not want to be forgotten.
In August, 2000, my best friend from high school, Cinthia Navarro, died in an automobile accident. It was raining heavily, and the SUV her boyfriend was driving turned over when it skidded. She was 21 years old She would have been 22 in a little over a month, and it was three days before my 22nd birthday.
He was left without a scratch, but I can't imagine the amount of guilt he must have felt. He had been taking her on a vacation with the intention of proposing to her.
Cinthia was an absolutely incredible person. She lived with her parents, her uncle, and her two little brothers in a tiny house, and her bedroom was literally a broom closet-- she had given up her bedroom so that her uncle could have a room in their house. Her family was too poor to afford a lot of things, and in our school district, where people lived on estates and had personal shoppers and homes in the Hamptons, she was sorely underprivileged by comparison.
I remember one of my teachers bitching to me about her once, about how Cinthia hadn't bothered to type a paper yet again. I had to explain to her that Cin came over to my house every day after school to type as much as she could on my computer, and that when I had homework that needed to be typed, Cinthia had to handwrite hers. The teacher was completely floored that a girl in our district didn't have a computer of her own, and she had chalked it up to laziness. Cin was anything but lazy. She worked her ass off in high school to overcome the prejudices that a rich, Jewish school had against a poor, Latina girl and to keep up with classes that weren't in her first language.
She was marvellously tough, and occasionally bitchy but always even-keeled. She was one of those people who would always back up her friends, even if she disagreed with them, fiercely protective, and completely willing to help with anything and take a back seat when she felt like it was someone else's opportunity to shine. When I was into writing music, one of the first songs I wrote was about her. I think a lot of what we did was to take care of each other. We were both mentors to each other in a lot of ways; I helped her when she was struggling in classes, she helped me when I was struggling with social drama.
Cinthia was really into photography. She took some amazing pictures, and she was a great cartoonist. Of the few things I have left to remember her by is a cartoon she did of a scene in "My Own Private Idaho." She was also a pretty damn good artist-- very into painting, mostly still-life. Her favorite flowers were sunflowers, and her parents' house was full of sunflower paintings.
She played the guitar. She went to her prom dressed as Holly Golightly. She worked in a bridal shop, and just weeks before she died, she was helping to fit me for my bridesmaid's gown for my cousin's wedding, free of charge. It's the last clear memory I have of her, was that day when we went to the bridal store to get my dress fitted.
She wanted to be a journalist. That's another thing she worked her ass off for. She got herself accepted into a special program at NYU, and when she couldn't afford it even with financial aid, she alternated between going to the local community college and going to NYU over the summer. She had just finished at the CC and was preparing to go to NYU full time when she died.
She was the second person I wrote with seriously. The first one also died in a really brutal accident, ten years ago, the summer I turned 17. Right around now, actually. I'll talk about Jessie some other time, because she was amazing as well. Cin, though, was my co-editor on my little guerilla magazine that I put out. She worked her ass off on that; the year we edited together we had more issues of the mag than the year before, and they were all longer. It was awesome.
Anyway, I was on Long Island a couple weeks back now, and we drove past my parents' old house. The new landscaping and paint job didn't shock me much; I don't feel any great loss at the fact that that house isn't my home anymore, but what really crushed me, more than anything, was that across the street from our old house, where her house had been was an empty plot of dirt. It was like she had been blotted from the landscape. Even after she was gone, her house was always there, and I would go over and bring her mom sunflowers and talk to her sometimes. It was like Cinthia was just out for a while, like I had run over to see her and happened to miss her, which happened frequently enough when she was here. But her house was gone and it was an absolutely startling blow for me. It was one more thing that kept her here, that marked the landscape with her unforgettable presence. And it was gone.
So I'm writing this long post, because when you lose somebody you love, it never completely heals, but the world is still a better place for the fact that they were there for the short time they were. Cinthia deserved to go on, to continue and do great things, because she worked so hard, because she was passionate and loving and dedicated. This is just my way of making sure she continues to stay with us.
When I do get a book published, she's getting my first dedication. I decided that a long time ago, and it might have been true even if she hadn't died. But she's going to be remembered. I can't tell you all how much of my inspiration and drive is derived from the simple fact that I don't want to let her down.