My friend Aviva died this week.
I first met her on the RAINDOGS list, a listserv for Tom Waits nerds, on which I seem to have met some of my longest-serving (suffering?) friends.
Anyway, Aviva was divisive on there: for her a Pyrrhic victory, a self-scorching position was better than a retreat or an apology.
Some people hated her, some loved her.
We wrote each other emails for a long time, and I edited some of her writing, though not the three books which bear her name.
She seemed to be someone who collected people, and interesting stories. She had plenty of those herself.
Aviva had lived on kibbutz in Israel, had done more dangerous and stupid shit than almost anyone I know, and was in the throes of a degenerative disease.
We didn’t speak in the past few years as we had a falling out during a rough patch, both infuriating and stupid.
I only saw Aviva once in person, in San Francisco. She drove us around town at Bullitt-worthy speeds in her hand-controlled car – she was in a wheelchair by this time – and took us to Amoeba and to that statue of Yoda at LFL.
At the end of the day she drove to the beach you’ve seen a photo of: flat sands and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Seagulls wheeled.
It was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
She gave me a small stone, after speaking quietly and sternly to it.She told me to throw it into the sea, as far as I could. Because it contained all the bad shit she’d done, and would free her up to concentrate on making herself well.
I threw it as far as I could.
I wonder if it went far enough.
Aviva was tough and both difficult and wonderful in equal measure.
And so here we are. She’s gone, leaving an Amazon credit card full of donations to charities for Bezos to pay for. It’s a good last laugh, as far as they go. I just wish things had been less hard for her – but she would (probably rightly) excoriate me as a sap for thinking so.
She got in touch to apologise a couple of months ago, hinting that this was coming. I didn’t know what to say – who does?
That’s it, I guess. News you know is coming still makes it no less shitty to receive.
Update: it turns out that someone discovered Aviva before she died, and so she was taken to hospital. In hospital, she contracted COVID-19 and was denied adequate pain relief as she was suicidal. She died a couple of weeks later.
Agitate for the ability to die with dignity, folks.