These memories of you/ keep me company at night.
“Let’s go on an adventure” was your favorite thing to say to me.
I remember the first time you called me for an “adventure.” 20 minutes later, you were at my front door with 6 strangers in a beat-up SUV. You introduced me to your friends as “Vah-knee-ss” and described me as: “pretty dope.” Immediately, everyone nodded in agreement. You said I was cool therefore I was cool. There was no time for debate. We were on a mission.
We jumped onto the 210 W freeway and made a beeline for the La Canada Hills. Once we were at the rendezvous point, four other cars unloaded and teenagers from all over the San Gabriel Valley materialized with eager faces. You announced that we were going to jump the gate labeled “Danger: Do Not Enter,” hike a quarter of a mile into the darkness, and set off fireworks in the closed sewer tunnels. My skin was crawling with excitement, not from the anxiety of possibly being caught, but because you had introduced me to people-from all over-who knew nothing about me. You gave me the opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be.
You told them I was strong, sharp, and adventurous; and as the leader of the pack, this immediately became the accepted opinion. From that moment on, I absorbed this identity and have been developing it every since.
During my junior year at Boston College, I got a call from our mutual best friend Monique: “Davis is gone.”
I stared into my LSAT book and the words started melting into one another. The sun shone brilliantly into the study room I had booked for 8 hours (on a Saturday) and all I could mumble was, “I need to study, let’s talk and process this together later.” After studying furiously for another three hours, I finally packed-up my belongings to head home and then everything went dark.
I blacked back in at 9pm, in my studio, screaming as if someone was stabbing me. I started shattering everything I could get my hands on; I wanted my surroundings to mirror how I felt inside.
How could you fucking do this to me? I am only what you created me to be. I am nothing more, but everything less.
After an hour-long meltdown, I finally got the nerve to call my best friend and she started the grieving protocol for me. A parade of close friends, residents, therapists, employers, and priests rotated in and out of my room to “check up on me,” but the gesture was much like talking to a coma patient: thoughtful, yet ineffective. My mind had given up and my body was barely kept conscious by my best friend gently stroking my head.
My heart is broken into two/ half of it with me/ half of it with you.
Two years later and thousands of miles away, I find myself enduring a similar sense of hopelessness during this year’s grieving process, but for different reasons.
As your birthday approaches, I can’t help but try to visualize who you would have been today. I see you living in Georgia, ghost writing for Beyonce, and skyping me about how you’re getting too old for the music industry already. You’re face is way too close to the computer camera, you’re wearing a shirt that says “To The Moon And Back Twice,” and you’re telling me that I’m too cool to do something I don’t really love. As always, you believe in me more than I believe in me.
You’re the reason I started this whole adventure. You’re the reason I’m not rotting in some library dreaming of Asia. You were the ultimate wanderer. You did whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted, wherever you wanted to do it. We were always headed in the direction of nowhere in particular and if Sonny had gas in his SUV, we could bring along another 5 people. But if you fell… what chance do I have?
If I knew what to do/ it would already be done.
Ever since that day, I’ve been trying to prove to myself that I am everything you thought I was. If you could send me some sort of sign that I’m doing something right, I’d be most obliged. Was China the right move or am I meant to be in Iraq? Tell me now because I’m committing the next two years to studying Chinese and Arabic seems like a far easier transition. Just let me know where the next adventure is and I’ll be there-with people-I got mad peeps now.
You were a beacon of light for so many people who felt like they were drowning in their ocean of problems; including myself. Whenever I’m down in China, with my back against the wall, I reflect on your music:
I’ll take you to the moon/ into the stars so you/ can see them for yourself… I’m here to show you how/ tonight this is the night/ we’ll fall into the sky.
I’ll carry your light now; so will all of your friends and family. I’ll do the best I can. I promise. I started this adventure with nothing more than your advice in mind and look how far I’ve made it! 3,000 miles away from home, I’m taking care of myself, making my own decisions, and seeing the world with what little time I have left. And if I so perish on this adventure, make sure you have your DJ equipment in place for my arrival soirée… with an open bar obviously. It’s tacky not to have an open bar at a celebration.
Going on an adventure in the Philippines for your birthday. Wish you could make it.
Photos were take by:
Ye Mao Zi Photography (夜猫子摄影)
Aaron Berkovich is one of my personal friends and long-time supporters. He believed in my dreams before it was cool.
He’s been shooting in Beijing for the later year and by photographing travel, parties, people, and food, his intimate images allow him to share his own journey with like-minded people. Like his page here.
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About Vanessa Elizabeth
Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.
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