Victoria and I met at a dysfunctional startup at the end of the dotcom boom. Our cubicles next to each other. It was a long time ago--so many lifetimes ago it feels like. Since WHN, we only spoke periodically, and usually via text, Facebook messaging or comments. We saw each other even less. Years would go by between random lunches with Jessica, her, and me--our "peep lunches" we called them. But Victoria was as unforgettable as she was strong. She probably never knew that I thought and spoke of her often.
I remember the antics of our former employer.
I remember vividly her wedding. It was at a beautiful location. She didn't want to bore her guests with a long, drawn out ceremony, so the ceremony itself was short, had an amazing singer. It was short, memorable, to the point, as she wanted to get onto the celebration. It was Victoria.
I remember the bunny she had briefly (William) whom I met..
Peep lunches were almost always held at the Hamburger Hamlet on Sepulveda--it was a place we went often when we worked together. Their lobster bisque was one of our staples--that and those little crispy onion rings. I remember one time laughing in the parking lot after we'd eaten. As I walked her to her car, looking for her usual beemer, she stopped by an SUV and popped open the hatch. "That's right. I drive an SUV now, with a car seat. Can you believe it?! ....Me, of all people!" She said with her usual devilish smile.
Eventually the West L.A. Hamlet closed. When we heard the original Hamlet on Sunset was closing, we had to have a peep lunch there. We reminisced in one of those iconic booths. We talked about her jobs. She was in P.R., and she always had stories to tell--she repped Larry Flynt! She always had doozies to tell. I had no idea this would be the last time I would see her.
As we were leaving the Hamlet, she told me she was dealing with cancer. "This is a wig!" She exclaimed, with her usual smile. "You okay?" I asked. She of course told me she was doing fine. I took it. I don't deal with that stuff well, and this was Victoria. She's indestructible. I knew she'd be fine, and I never gave it a second thought.
When I heard recently there were talks about opening another Hamlet on this side, I thought "Great! That will be our next peep lunch." One of my coworkers I work closely with does P.R. for the company I work for. I've brought Victoria up numerous times to her, as well as randomly to friends. I don't think she ever knew how often I thought of her, and brought her up either directly or indirectly. I never told her. I guess I was really proud of her. I never told her how much I admired her-- her tenacity, animation, and strength of character. I'm not sure I realized any of it myself. Emoting is not something I'm particularly comfortable with, but now I find myself filled with regret for never having told her.
Even though we only saw each other every couple of years, I guess I just always took for granted she'd be there, and we'd still be sharing stories every so often.
It was the Thursday after celebrating the gay rights wins from the Supreme Court just the day before. That evening, I saw the post on her Facebook from her husband letting everyone know she'd passed that afternoon. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I must have scrolled back a half dozen times to reread it thinking I must have read the name wrong. For a moment, I had no idea what had happened. Then our conversation at our last Hamlet lunch hauntingly came back to me.
Those random things that happen in my day that make me think of her still pop in my mind. Then I remember she's gone. I never realized what an impact she made on me. I was selfish for not taking what she told me that day more seriously, all because of my usual naive notion that not dealing with it somehow makes it not real.
And as I pick out my outfit for tomorrow, it still doesn't seem real. I miss you already.