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When I was 22, my boyfriend and I liked to go the bar every night. The bar was joined by a restaurant that served delicious Tex-Mex food. We didn’t go there to get drunk (but we did) or stuff ourselves with tacos (we did that too); we were there to see Amber. She was my age and I liked her a lot, but Rob, my boyfriend, loved her as his best friend in the world. Rob was older than we were by about 12 years, and Amber’s fiancé was even older than that, I think. He was the manager at the bar, while she was a bartender. Although Rob and I weren’t as close to Tori as we were to Amber, we liked to visit with them both.
Amber was the sun on a cloudy day. She was so beautiful, witty, and smart – she could always make you smile. That’s probably was what made her a great bartender. However, bartending was only a fraction of what Amber could do. She was also a graduate student and had a student position in the science department. She always told us that the scientists she was working for had a top secret experiment going on that she was allowed to participate in, but she wouldn’t tell us more. I remember her coming over to our house and smoking cigarettes with me on the porch. She knew all about the constellations and would explain these and things like the phenomenon of cults to me. It seemed that Amber knew a little bit about everything.
When Amber sported an engagement band on her ring finger, we were so happy for her. We teased her about Tori finally getting her a ring. She retorted, “I bought this for myself. I knew Tori would never get me one”. Of course, we didn’t know what to say, so we said nothing. I remember being confused about why she would buy her own ring, but it didn’t seem to bother her and I never asked about it.
Amber and Tori would come over for game night or dinner. I remember one time we went out to a restaurant and I got drunk, squirting half and half over everyone from the little containers. Rob was furious with me, but Amber only got a little frustrated. That’s how she was: calm and cool. I loved her for keeping me grounded. I needed that, because I was an untreated bipolar alcoholic. I knew that Amber was Rob’s best friend, and I respected that, but I secretly wanted her to be mine.
I only saw Amber upset once, but I couldn’t figure out why. She said a “nosy neighbor” came over and bothered her about a loud noise coming from her house. Amber thought this was ridiculous and that the neighbor just wanted to bother her. We took her side right away, telling her that it was ridiculous and that she should just forget about it. I don’t think she ever did – she was so pissed off.
Rob and I were having dinner with Amber and Tori one night when she exclaimed that she alone had solved the science problem in her lab at school. We stared at her with dumb looks until she finally thought she convinced us that the year-long hypothetical, college level science problem, had been solved exclusively by her. We told her we believed her, but I don’t think any of us did. “Are you going to tell the scientists?” I asked. “Soon”, she said, “soon”.
She never told them. Word came that Amber was dead. She had put her head in a drawer and shot herself. They would find extra holes in the drawer where Amber had “practiced”. This is why the neighbor had previously come over. It was important to Amber that Tori find her, which is what had made her so angry. None of this made any sense: Amber was always upbeat and almost everyone she knew loved her like a sister. Why would she want to hurt Tori like that? What had happened?
She wanted a ring on her finger in death and she wanted to pass away knowing that she alone held the secret to the science experiment. Tori talked to one of her science coworkers who verified that Amber had hidden the scientific results. But why would she want to leave us? Didn’t she love us? No one could explain a thing about this suicide. It didn’t make sense, but do they ever?
So many people mourned at her memorial. It was a disgusting and sad day. Mourners walked around with lost faces. I thought a few would walk straight into the wall. Amber left us a memory album (she what?!), yes, she compiled a book of memories for her death. It was clear that she knew about this day long before any of us did.
This was 1997 and I don’t know what kind of suicide prevention there was. I know there was a little, because I remember learning about it at school, but even that was minute. I think that if there was more early education, potential suicides would know what resources are out there. This could have helped Amber, but I don’t know that it would have. We’ll never know why Amber had to die, but I can tell you that the people who knew her will never forget her. This is why I work to spread suicide awareness and work for suicide prevention. We need to eradicate stigma and maintain safe places for people to talk about suicide.