As promised, this is the last chapter in Chris' tale and my part of it. It is also the hardest for me.
Roll forward 5 years to 1980. I am living in one of the Southern California beach communities. Single, somewhat carefree and enjoying my work. Life was very good and beyond mortgages, motorcycles, surfing and dating, very uncomplicated.
One Sunday I was returning from a great ride on the Ortega Hwy and decided to stop at the Baskin Robbins around the corner from where I lived. In line behind me was Chris. She had seen me walk in the store and followed me in (I am not hard to spot). I had not seen her since I graduated and the news I had of her was a bit sparse since of the 3 room mates, Liz was the only one that semi regularly communicated with Chris.
We chatted over a couple of scoops of ice cream and caught up. She had squeaked out with her degree in Communications and was working minimum wage jobs looking for something "in her line". She had been living with her boyfriend for about a year in the same community I did and had become completely estranged from her Mother. She seemed in good spirits and appeared to be moving forward. We swapped information and then I went on my way.
2 weeks later she called. She had a fight with BF. It got physical etc and she asked if she could stay with me that night. I agreed. 3 days later she had reconciled with her BF and was back with him. During that time I came to understand that Chris had not resolved any of her problems. She was still a "downer" to be around.
For me, this was a very good time in my life. I was enjoying work and play. The OH and I were becoming an item. I was happy.
Over the course of the next 6 months I continued to hear from Chris. I started blowing her off or avoiding her entirely. At various points I told her "I am not your Mother", "Just deal with it" and some other witty advice. I had helped fix her problems once before. I had no desire, interest or energy to share her problems again. There was silence for about a month. I was actually starting to worry, but did not want to call. Then her loser BF called.
Chris had killed herself.
The BF held me responsible. His position was that Chris had been looking to me for help and I had refused it. Liz and I attended the funeral. It was not much of one and I would be surprised if 20 people were in attendance. Notable in their absence was her Mother and her two youngest siblings that still lived with her.
I hope the reasons this has been difficult to write are becoming apparent. I do not accept the loser BF's condemnation, but I do have to look at my part in this. Am I to any degree responsible for Chris' death? If I had tried, could I have saved her from herself? How responsible am I or anyone for problems that wash up on our door steps? Is responsibility universal? Could I have made a difference?
Would she have been a boat anchor and dragged me down with her?
26 years laters these questions still haunt me and I am no closer to being able to answer them.
Thank you for your patience in reading this. It is a story I needed to tell for a long time.