and them walk out through the back door…
… while he was wheeled out shortly after.
I wish I could say I was surprised but much like his last texts (shown in the post) – his choices were his own.
Needing proof in a surreal state of mind, I saw the physical location of where my friend was shot, and even his new current digs which are shockingly higher than the market rate.
I say that in jest but the reality was, that my system was shutting down and I didn’t know it but I was becoming catatonic.
The “Jen” that I’ve so proudly and authentically known my entire life, couldn’t think, see, or breathe clearly.
Whatever or whoever this new person was/ is was singularly focused not on finding the people who murdered him (they caught them super quickly) but on finding a solution to this new reality on how to move forward. As a building, we didn’t even get an email or memo regarding what happened. We got a knock on the door from the police and a new navigation path through yellow tape reading POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS.
Through an unimaginable amount of strength and sheer will I successfully organized a meeting for the murder … for obvious reasons I called the memo “murder meeting” … and opened up the communication channels for the residents in the form of an email chain.
You can’t google “what to do when your neighbor is murdered” and find accurate information.
I know this because I tried and what you will find is a brilliant content marketing strategy for attorneys wanting to procure business for landlord negligence.
No one wanted to sue, we just wanted to feel safe and now no longer trusted management. Through research and pounding on doors and the pavement,
I took an intangible problem and found a tangible solution.
I’m still really proud of that.
Feeling like my job was done in a body I barely recognized or identified, I cried to my still at this point boyfriend.
WHAT THE FUCK ELSE IS GOING TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR, I shouted into his arms.
I love that this is the part where everyone reading knows EXACTLY what is going to happen next.
ENTER STAGE LEFT WITH JAZZ HANDS …
If there were ever a time to have the worst five weeks of your life, it was really quite brilliant to pair it with a global pandemic.
The heaviness of the murder became old news. Who knew murder could suddenly become anti-climactic …
and anything criminal happening near or around the building meant we had the DIRECT CONTACT INFORMATION for the lead safety officer.
(Who also has personally placed calls to the attorney general for multiple violations of our protection.)
He’s the person who held the meeting for murder. I know this because we’re homies now …
I can’t remember much from the beginning of the pandemic.
I only remember the literal beginning when my friend called me from the governor’s office and said “we are going into a two-week quarantine. You need to go to the store right now and stock up on what you can.”
Shocked, but without thought or a follow-up question, I said “I love you, and okay” as I hung up.
I had never told this friend I loved him before, but it was TRUE!
Seconds later, I got a second message from a friend of a friend who didn’t say we were going into a quarantine but rather cryptically on the app Signal, he messaged asking if I “needed anything?”
Simple – but out of character. I immediately knew he got a call too, and that this was actually happening.
Holy shit, I said to my still boyfriend and little sister (soon to be maid of honor who happened to be over because we love each other and live in the same building) – we really are going into some type of quarantine.
I couldn’t process fully what that meant, but I said, “we need to go to the store right now and be as calm as possible. I don’t know how many other people are getting calls like this.”
… I GOT TWO!! TWO …
I didn’t know what going grocery shopping before a quarantine would be like but in my head I saw the potential for a Mufasa masssacre style stampede.
I have been told for most of my life by my friends that “I was on their zombie apocalypse list. And if the shit were to ever hit the fan, that I was someone they would want to be alive in whatever the new reality was. The realization of how COOL that moment was that it actually came true.
I later discovered that the second friend was in the offices of the CDC.
My still boyfriend drove, (I’m laying the still boyfriend aspect on REAL thick) as I texted as many people as I could cutting and pasting the information I had received.
This is what I sent:
And then as I texted people, one of my friends wrote this back confirming the information received:
My sister piped up from the back seat saying, “you also just received this news. Why don’t you take a breath and stop texting people for a minute.”
Oh, I thought, that sounds right, as I literally took a breath and laughed at the reality of our situation.
Guys, can we all just take a minute to take a picture? Look at how we walked out the door in a moment’s notice …
Also, can we please comment on how terrifyingly psychic my sis is. She BOUGHT ME A MASK that is a hawk and it lights up when you talk OVER A MONTH BEFORE THE QUARANTINE! People weren’t even TALKING about having to wear masks yet – she just said “I was in Brooklyn and saw this and thought of you!”
She. bought. me. a. mask. before. we. were. legally. required. to. wear. them.
We then casually …. yet super creepily … wandered through the store with the deliberate intent and awareness that we were going into a quarantine. With three full carts of paper related products (toilet paper was gone at this point), food and drinks … we casually/ super creepily walked up to the cashier to checkout.
This is what we looked like ….
Totally casual … just happen to be hosting a party for about 50 people …
This is the exact sake cart that gets mentioned in the Maid of Honor’s
speech mentioned later.
I remember the look the cashier gave us, it was a mix between WTF are they wearing and WTF are they buying? We’re never normal but in this moment, we were very much not normal.
It was in this exact life moment that I learned so much about myself. In a circumstance that has historically been unprecedented, I was exactly the person I thought I would be.
I’ve always been someone who will speak up when information is important (or even difficult to hear myself).
I’ve always been the person who will help out as much as I can to those I care about. And I’ve always been the person that despite whatever circumstances arrived, I can keep a singular and laser focus on whatever the “prize” is.
In this life moment, my still boyfriend, sister, and I calculated visually an approximation of how much toilet paper adjacent product we would need.
“I think I can survive on three squares each use,” he said.
Great, I said (impressed but also), because two neighbors just texted saying they don’t have enough so I’m going to drop two packages off. Because of the murder, I had everyone’s number. Technically speaking I had it before via the game nights I hosted in the lobby – but in this moment, I knew all of the numbers I had were recent, and this was a time when they were needed the most.
Besides, guys, we have a shower. That’s like a life size bidet … being out of toilet paper really isn’t the end of the world.
Questioning myself if the end of the world could actually be upon us, I smiled knowing that if the predictions were true, at least I was spending it with two people I love more than anything (and coincidentally happen to be the funnest people ever)!!!
Here we go, we all said in cheers, unsure of what was going to happen next nor care to control what it all meant.
What happened next was (as you all know) a quarantine. Which was a phrase up until this point that I knew of, but had never thought I’d actually experience.
Phrases like “hunker down” became a thing, but so did the one phrase I’ve been waiting to hear my entire life …
Two weeks into the pandemic, on Buster’s birthday (April Fool’s Day) my then still boyfriend became my fiancè.
We then placed FaceTime call after FaceTime call giving those we love our good news … which came in REAL handy since much like toilet paper – good news had also run dry.
I’ve never seen expressions of joy like I have with an engagement announcement during a pandemic. Technically, I wouldn’t know what it was like outside of a pandemic as this was a life first, but you get what I mean.
A month later, still in the pandemic, we made the painstakingly difficult decision to go through with a wedding.
Our parents mean the world to us, so even if we had to have a wedding consisting of six people – that would be our life experience and we would embrace it. The idea of not having our parents present to witness our vows was unacceptable. A pandemic may or may not have a perceived timeline, but father time waits for no one.
Through research, I then discovered there’s something called an “all-inclusive wedding package.”
An all inclusive wedding means that your DJ, caterer, florist, cake person, and wedding planner are all people that work together. I’ve heard time and time again from friends that it’s hard to enjoy your own wedding. If we do this, I said to my fiancé, we are enjoying the SHIT out of our wedding. Every moment. Every minute. We are going to savor it. And while time may feel a little weird right now, we are going to make this all about us.
I then googled “historical all inclusive weddings” and saw this …
This is the Treasury On The Plaza aka the most BREATHTAKING wedding venue I have ever seen. (Seriously, pictures don’t even do it justice – which says a lot!)
Logically, because most of the people attending the wedding were in Florida, it made the most sense to host it there. Saint Augustine (location of said potential venue) made the most sense because it had the least amount of covid cases in Florida. And Treasury on the Plaza made the most sense because
LOOK AT THIS PLACE!!!
Now, as the bride and groom, did we legally or logistically know how we were physically going to get to Florida being on the other side of the country?
Did we know we would figure it out?
Well, we got this far, so I’d bet a TP square or two that we could.
I then sent the link of the venue to my mother, as I went grocery shopping in a mask and glove that conveniently fit over my engagement ring. Unsure of what a wedding costs, and unsure of what our budget would be given we have both been directly impacted financially, I placed an also unsure call en route back to the potential venue.
The friendliest voice answered, and said “Congratulations!! You’re engaged!!!”
Thank you, I said, while I admitted my truth – “I don’t feel engaged.”
“Well, let’s see if we can change that! My name is Jessica and I’m here to help. What date are you looking for?”
“Can we get married this year? I said with uncertainty on availability and uncertainty on pandemic restrictions
(as each state had rules that were changing in what felt like minute by minute)
“Pick a date!”
Having no frame of reference on how long it takes to plan a wedding, I asked if November was too soon?
She then looked down at her calendar and said how about October 29th?
She didn’t know this, but I started to tear up when she said it. I lost a very dear and good friend on October 29th and knew that while she was already gone, she was ABSOLUTELY the biggest champion of love and I could not only alchemize that experience, but honor her in the process. PLUS! This would also mean that our wedding would be paired with Halloween each year and since Halloween is my Christmas, it made the most sense.
Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the wedding and while most of my life may not be traditional, I hoped they could help out. Very fortunately, my parents could afford it, and due to this special covid package they were offering, they had a budget that allowed for our first venue choice to happen.