Discover something new.

Samay and I didn’t get close until after Cam broke my heart. I found out that he’d also broken hers once upon a time, which shouldn’t have been surprising, but I was amazed that she could be such close friends with him after such devastation. Until this point, Samay and I had been peripheral acquaintances for decades, but Cam was a human storm, wiping out everyone who loved him. In his stead, our friendship grew.

She coached me through my despair. She reminded me that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that romantic heartbreak isn’t permanent, even if it felt like it would last forever. Over time, our conversations turned away from Cam.

We didn’t live close to each other, so we met in the middle. We went to museums. We had lunch. It was a civilized thirty-something friendship. We talked about work, romantic frustrations, and all the things we wanted to do in life. She was a trapeze artist, but she wanted a piece of tech, so she went to school, learned how to program, then got gigs as a programmer, working for the circus on the weekends.

She raised chickens, but not in the cute just-for-eggs way. She occasionally killed one for eating, so she didn’t give them names. Still, she wasn’t without love for animals. When she and her husband had an infestation of mice, they caught and released more than twenty!

Once, we took the ferry together. I was afraid of the water, and Samay held my hand. (Did she? This is my memory, and my memory says she did.) This is the only time I remember us touching, although chances are we hugged when we said hello and goodbye. I mean, we’re Californians; of course we did.

The last time I saw Samay, I drove out to visit her home. When I got there, she was in her robe and surprised to see me. She’d forgotten our date and was suffering from cramps, so we said we’d hang out some other time. I drove the hour back home, confused and disappointed.

When Samay got alcohol poisoning the week she separated from her husband, I didn’t reach out. After all, she didn’t tell me this herself—I’d gotten it third-hand. I didn’t want to seem nosy or embarrass her. She was a private person.

In 2013, I moved to Los Angeles, and I watched my Bay Area friends over social media. Occasionally Samay made posts that could’ve been vents or cries for help. When I checked in, she’d either say she was fine, or we’d talk it out. One time she was sad that her stepdad died. Another time she was frustrated with work.

Years passed. The pandemic happened.

In winter of 2021, after eight years in LA, I moved back to the Bay. I was a mess, having gone a little insane during the pandemic. Recuperating via therapy, meds, and a safe environment, it was months before I felt comfortable enough to let my old friends know I was back.

I hadn’t reached out to Samay yet when I heard the news she died. I don’t know what happened, only that alcohol was involved.

I reached out to Cam to commiserate. We’re not friends anymore—we never got back in the zone like Samay and he had, but Cam was the reason she’d been in my life and I was thirsty for connection. It sounded like he’d drifted away from her over the past few years. I wonder how many people she had left in the end.

I reached out to her ex-husband, who said she had been looking forward to seeing me, that her death was hard for him to accept. I didn’t ask for specifics of what happened. I’m not sure I’m ready to know, but I think about her all the time. One of her last messages to me read: “I want to do things before I die.”

I know this heartbreak will last forever.

MariNaomi (they/them) is the award-winning author and illustrator of Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011), Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories (2dcloud/Uncivilized Books, 2014), Turning Japanese (2dcloud, 2016; Extended edition Oni Press, 2023), I Thought YOU Hated ME (Retrofit Comics, 2016), the Life on Earth trilogy (Graphic Universe, 2018-2020), Dirty Produce (Workman Publishing, 2021), and I Thought You Loved Me (Fieldmouse Press, 2023). Their work has appeared in nearly one hundred print publications and has been featured on websites such as The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, The Washington Post, LA Times, The Rumpus, LA Review of Books, Midnight Breakfast, SF Examiner, and BuzzFeed. Their comics have been translated into French (Devenir Japonaise, Editions IMHO,

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