My Dead Friend

It is a Friday night and I find myself on the phone with Síle - again listening to a string of woeful stories I have been tortured with many, many times over. She progressed to monologues the day I refused a game of “one-up” with her. Apparently, the more pitiful circumstance is a possession to be coveted and jealously guarded. Occasionally, I spit forth carefully scripted interjections. Inexplicably, she never notices the redundancy.

“Bless your heart,” I utter in a voice devoid of a passion it once held.

This one comment frees my attention for a good five minutes or so while she drones on, unaware of her audience. I choose to utilize this time wisely by doodling stick figures engaged in various activities. I am especially proud of the drawing depicting a girl standing under a handsome oak tree babbling drivel to a corpse which happens to be dangling from its branches. The corpse has apparently decided it isn’t quite dead enough and is therefore holding a pistol to its temple. I let escape a giggle. She notices.

“You’re absolutely right, Kate. It is absurd, isn’t it!”

“It’s all absurd.” My guess is that this response is both strong enough to give the impression of my attention and vague enough to fit whatever it is she happens to be going on about.

We have now been on the phone for over an hour, during which time she has told me of her battles with lupus, epilepsy, and various other ailments, along with the fact that her local hospital is refusing to treat her. At least, this is a fair guess, considering the last six conversations were thus comprised. Finally, she asks me how I’m doing, which is a cue that she is nearly ready to end her excruciating and repetitious tales of “whoa.” Eager to be free, I shortly tell her that I’m fine and life is boring (this is especially true at the moment in question). Nothing to see here.

“How’s my wee namesake?” she then asks in her Irish lilt.

She is referring to Reilly, the puppy I adopted nine months earlier and to whom, apparently, I bequeathed her surname. She insists I maintain the Gaelic spelling of the name, Raghallaigh, even though it refuses to fit itself within the confines of a dog tag.

“It would be a disgrace to my culture, my background, and the history of my country to anglicize the name,” she explains with a patriotic flourish of her accent.

At the moment, I’m thinking that between the two, Reilly has the superior conversational skills.

“Reilly is a joy. He sends his love…. Listen, speaking of the little scamp, he’s in need of a bathroom break. Would you be terribly offended if I let you go?”

“Ach, no darling. I’ll call you on Tuesday. I’ll fill you in on the rest of it then. Night, dear. I love you.”

This is the last time I heard her voice. She never phoned on Tuesday due to a nasty case of death.

The next month sees a great sweeping rush of agonized activity. The local Derry police have trouble locating Síle’s parents, so we, her friends, commence to follow every lead we can think of in order to help track them down. The authorities will wait the customary sixty days for her family to claim the corpse before giving her a common state burial. We search her LiveJournal looking for clues. We phone Trinity in Dublin (where she told us she went to university) to ask for any helpful information. We make a request that the Garda search in County Meath, where she said she was raised. A public announcement is broadcast on national radio.

None come forward. Nobody has even heard of her. We, her friends, are baffled and at a dead end.

I receive a startling e-mail soon after this. The police finally have a lead. An American passport bearing her likeness was found among her papers. Síle, my dear long-suffering and long-winded friend with the loveliest Irish lilt to her painfully ceaseless verbiage, was a born and raised American. In fact, her real name was Tiffany Applewhite.

As time passes, I am learning more about this dead stranger named Tiffany. In short, she was a girl from Allentown, New Jersey who had not lupus, epilepsy, nor any other major ailment. What she did have was a form of conversion disorder. This explains her false claims of tragic illness, but not the lies concerning her name, nationality, and family background. I have had to fill in most of the gaps on my own. I have done this with a purple crayon, as this was her favorite color. In the “Cause of Death” blank, I scrawled, “Unknown.” After a good deal of speculation, I added, “Possible Explosion of Larynx Due to Extreme Exhaustion.”

In the end, I have decided that I shouldn’t worry too much about a girl I never knew. If Tiffany was worth knowing, Síle would have introduced us at some point, braggart that she was. Mostly, I am bitter that I spent so much time expending emotional energy towards ills that only existed in Síle’s mind. I am bitter because she did not trust me to love her for who she really was. If anything is deserving of my pity, it is the empty mimic of a life she constantly pushed in my face, desperate to out-woe my own.

Yet still I would take Síle by the hand and let her know how much she touched my life.

Tiffany I would spray with mace out of a healthy sense of Stranger Danger.

What do you think, did we get it right? Comment here...