When You'll Miss Me"
have been dreaming about my friend Amanda Davis. In one dream I
am in her bedroom, lying on the bed while she is trying on all these
glittery party clothes and dancing to music coming out of a radio.
I cant understand how it is that she is so cheerful, as I
know shes going to die soon. She knows it too.
on," she urges pulling on my hands. "Get off the bed and
dance. Dont you like this song?"
can you dance?" I say, incredulous. I didnt know what
the music was, and I didnt like it.
shrugs and keeps dancing.
mountain music," she says, "You have to dance to it."
music. No wonder I hate it.
died on March 14, at the age of thirty-two, when the small Cessna
carrying her, her father and mother, crashed in North Carolinas
Smokey Mountains. Amandas father, an amateur pilot, was flying
her around on her book tour promoting her first novel, the all too
aptly titled Wonder When You'll Miss Me. Its the story
of Faith, a formerly fat girl with an imaginary fat girl side kick,
who, after being sexually assaulted during a Homecoming pep rally
and spending time in a mental institution, runs off to join the
circus. At storys end, Faith is beginning to learn the trapeze,
something Amanda had always wanted to do. Amanda was always one
for the underdog, for hard-earned redemption and the happy ending.
at night, when I cant sleep, I imagine Amanda in a spangly
silver dress somersaulting out of that Cessnas cockpit window
and into the clouds, lifted up into the sky as though shes
been caught in the hands of some cosmic unseen trapeze god.
herself had run off and joined the Bindlestiff circus for a time.
During her adventure shed had blue stars tattooed on her arms.
They didnt appear to be in any particular order, they didnt
spell out Mom or form any constellation I was familiar with. Though
no doubt the placement meant something to Amandafrom the first
time I met her, I found her and her stars intriguing.
should be friends," Amanda Davis said to me the first time
we officially met, in the spring of 2000, but despite all our mutual
friends, the fact that we were both publishing our first books with
the same company, and that we both lived in Brooklyn, I didnt
want to be her friend.
was the case against her: Amanda seemed to be having entirely too
much fun. She seemed to be every ones friend. You couldnt
throw an olive in the New York literary world without hitting someone
who knew her. Shed gotten them a job, an apartment, introduced
them to their husband, posted their bail, blurbed their book, or
just last night cooked them dinner even though she had fallen down
a flight of stairs and cracked her tail bone. Yes, all true. Not
only that, Amanda seemed to be at every book party, every reading
(we would exchange pleasantries), and shockingly, appeared genuinely
happy and supportive of whomever it was in the limelight, a rarity
in our world. Which is not to say she was always kind or niceno
indeed. Once when a writer whod recently written an unflattering
review of a friends book happened to pass by, shed skewered
her in language unbecoming a lady, and laughed, "My mother
always said, `If you dont have anything nice to say, come
sit by me."
read her collection of short stories Circling
the Drain so I knew she had an off-kilter smartness
(the agony) and perhaps, worst of all, she was funny. I didnt
need any more friends.
her many charms, I resisted entering Amandas world for several
months, until the summer when we were both fellows at the Breadloaf
Writers Conference in Vermont, and then we became inseparable. In
the sometimes cliquey universe of writers colonies, Amanda
was rare person who appeared on speaking terms with everyone. When
she linked her arm through mine that afternoon, I was joined to
her. Amanda was like a latter day Dorothy Gale and I became part
of wide-ranging gang comprised of men with courage but no heart,
women with brains but no courage, all of us inspired by Amandas
generosity, humor and pluck, charmed by the smile that promised:
Theres adventure ahead! Oh, dont mind the flying
monkeysyoure with me now! I will protect you
to the death!
I met every bartender, waiter, literary agent, and award-winning
writer, while she provided hilarious, impassioned running commentary.
Pity the student who said he didnt see how a book could save
anybodys life, pity the handsome man who insinuated women
writers were inferior, or the beneficent-looking middle-aged woman,
working the room, whod be friendly to your face, but stuck
a knife in your back.
seemed to be that rare mix of brave and vulnerable at the same time.
She could talk to anyone, and people talked to her. You could walk
down the street with Amanda and shed smile and say hello to
anyone who spoke to her. Once in my neighborhood, I ducked into
deli to get a coffee, sitting outside the deli was a homeless man
who often commandeered a milk crate and sat there begging. Out the
window I could see him talking to Amanda. She was nodding. I was
anxious to get out of the store as I was afraid he was harassing
hurried outside, "Come on," I said, pulling on her arm.
Amanda said, not moving. "Do you know John?"
dont think weve been officially introduced, no
I said, blushing, and shook the mans rough, firm hand.
been telling me the most amazing story," she said.
she recounted how hed told how he had served in the Vietnam
War with a man, a firefighter, who had been killed in the World
Trade Center, he hadnt seen him in years. Then hed seen
the guys face in the newspaper. He started to cry, "Why
wasnt it me?" he said. "I have nothing, Im
nobody." he said. "Look at me, why him? He had a family
he began to cry.
say that," Amanda said. "You cant say that."