Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has become one of my favorite holidays. I love this opportunity to think about our loved ones who have passed away. Last year, I celebrated my Kuku & Tutu. This year, I thought about my dear friend Ana Martinez, who passed away on May 25, 1997. She was 18 years old and a senior in high school. Unbeknownst to me, she had Lupus and died due to complications from it. During the 2nd semester of her junior year (she was a year older than me), she was transfered to another high school. We sorta lost touch during that time, but she transfered back during the first semester of her senior year. When she came back, she looked very different. I never asked because I didn't want to offend her, besides, she was the same chill and crazy Ana....what did it matter?
After a while, her attendance became sporadic. Walking home from school, I had a feeling I should stop by her house, but I ignored that feeling and continued home. I'd try to call her, but she was never home, she was always up in LA. I got a call, late in May, from Adriana, a mutual friend who said that Ana was in the hospital and things didn't look so good. The next day, word came that Ana passed away. I couldn't believe it. She was gone and I didn't even get to say good bye. I was terribly sad. She was the first person to die, that I knew personally....she wasn't a friend of the family, or my parents' friend...she was a close, personal friend that I shared good times with. I recounted memories of junior high p.e., where I first met Ana & Adriana. I don't remember much, but I just remember that we hit it off instantly! It didn't hurt that she lived a block away from me, so we soon found ourselves walking to & from school together and hanging out all the time.
Ana was carefree, crazy and just all around cool. She didn't really care what others thought about her, which was something I admired greatly about her. She was extroverted and helped pry me out of my shy and introverted shell. We use to go on walks together in an effort to lose weight (which didn't make sense, since she was already so thin). We'd end up kickin it on top of the Juarez Lincoln school sign, talking, laughing and acting oh so crazy! I had never pierced my ears, til I found myself at JL school, with an ice to my ear and Ana piercing the top of my left ear. Man, that hurt like hell, but I felt cooler than cool! That lasted about 2 days, because my Dad would have killed me, and suddenly wearing my hair down at the dinner table would have been suspicious after a while. Not the highlight of our friendship, but when we were 13/14, she taught me how to shoplift and it was a pretty "sweet" summer. I stopped after doing it twice, and lucky for me that I did....she later got caught with a friend and ended up with a $1000 bill to foot. Yikes! That's when I swore never to do it again, fest up to my Mom and decided that maybe I wouldn't do just about everything with Ana.
I still had fun with her and enjoyed hanging out during school. She tried to teach me to say, "Hey Sexy, wanna wrestle?!" as a pick up line for the guys I crushed on. We'd always pass notes between classes and hung out all the time during lunch. She made high school so much better!
I remember her funeral, up in Los Angeles. It was a Catholic mass held in Spanish. I didn't understand any of it, because I don't speak Spanish nor am I Catholic. I remember standing, sitting and kneeling a million times over. My head was throbbing from this long experience as well as crying so much, because I missed my friend. During her viewing, I walked up to her casket and she didn't look like the Ana I knew. Her face was swollen more than the time I saw her during her last semester at school. Her hair was thin and her skin was an ashy color. This couldn't have been my dear friend Ana, but sadly it as. Her fingers were so thin and her bones spiked out from her thin skin. I remember the lavender purple knitted top that she wore on top of a white short sleeve shirt. I didn't realize that purple was her favorite color, because she always wore black. The only thing that really resembled Ana, was the black ring she always wore. That was the only piece of Ana that I recognized in the coffin, that day....everything else was foreign to me.
Every so often, I run into her Mom at the market and we talk a lil bit. I don't know if I'm a good or a bad thing for her Mom to see. I don't know if she's sad to see me because it makes her think of Ana. A couple years ago, as I was on the elliptical machine at the gym, a good looking guy walked by so I glanced down at him. He looked up at me, and he seemed strangely familiar. He walked by again and I just stared at him, while he stared back. He stopped, we talked....it was Ana's younger brother Paolo. I hadn't seen him in 12 years. He grew up and was a grown man! It was good to talk with him and it felt like old times.
I miss Ana. I often wonder what her life would have turned out like. I'm sad she never got to see her nephew grow up, as well as her 3 younger brothers. She was definitely a fiery spirit! She lived life to the fullest and was definitely full of life! I look forward to the day when we get to be friends again. I couldn't have been more grateful to have had a glimpse into the exciting and extraordinary life of Ana Martinez.