Alie

I met Alison at a Die Princess Die show almost three years ago. Our mutual friend Christopher introduced us. “You’ll really hit it off,” he said. “You both write about music.” He and Alie and their friend Rhadeka had driven up from Santa Barbara, where they all lived, to see another band, but they stayed at my insistence for DPD. Alie liked them, as any lover of rock & roll would. After the show, she posted a comment on their MySpace page: a swarm of razor blade butterflies to the face. fuck yeah. Her metaphor was right on the money—DPD did sound like a swarm of razor-blade butterflies to the face—but Alie’s face was lightly scarred here and there, so in that way it was a bit disconcerting. I never asked her about the scars. I never asked her anything about her past, knowing through Christopher that she was in recovery, and not wanting to put her on the spot.

Throughout the summer of 2006, we sporadically corresponded. I saved all her messages. Were we flirting? Maybe a little, to keep things interesting. In July, I met her downtown one night to see, among other bands, the Pope; and in August she wrote: christopher, rhadeka and i are all going to tangier tonight for bryan’s reading. can you go? it’d be nice to see you and you can check my new bleach blonde hair AND my new unicorn tattoo. Bryan was and is a poet; another mutual friend. I drove to Tangier, where I first ran into Christopher, who said that Alie and Rhadeka were excited about seeing me. “They really like you,” he said. Alie, when I saw her, looked great. She had indeed bleached her hair white, though I don’t remember seeing her tattoo. Nor do I entirely remember my actions that night, but there’s a clue in the comment she posted the next day on my MySpace page: aggressive hugs and aggressive jokes. all my other friends humor and affection is total pussy bullshit now. thanks a lot. My friend Sarah teased me about that comment, referring to me as “bully boy.” A week later I did a reading from my novel, and I invited Alie, who wrote back a few days later: i was washing dishes at the cafe where i work during your reading. but don’t worry – i pictured it in my mind.

That September, she published a piece in Skyscraper magazine, which also featured an interview, conducted by someone else, with Die Princess Die. I, too, had recently published a piece about DPD, in the now-defunct zine Big Wheel, and I gave Alie a copy when I met her and Rhadeka for coffee at a Silver Lake Starbucks. At one point she mentioned that she didn’t like spending time in L.A. after her tumultuous history there—an obvious allusion to her alcoholism, and the only one, to me at least, she ever made. Still, that was as much as she said, and I didn’t push for more, again not wanting to put her on the spot. I invited her to the Echo the following week to see DPD, but she wrote back: so i cant make it on sunday – but ill be in town on the 7th of october. i read your stuff in big wheel. you’re funny… On another occasion she wrote: when are we starting our magazine?

But she was moving to San Francisco, or so she’d said when we had coffee in September, and I figured that, once she moved, I’d probably never see her again. She last wrote to me on November 10, 2006:

dearest duke,

the pope is playing on monday at the il corral. apparently they are also playing christmas day at the north pole. but i think it would be better if we just planned on going to the l.a. show, because getting a flight to north pole on christmas can really be a bitch.

-alie

I ended up seeing another band that night with my friend Pete. Alie left me a phone message, which I failed to return, though I did later write to apologize. She never wrote back, and a month later, checking MySpace one morning, I found this message, posted by Rhadeka, on the bulletin board:

To All Friends of the Beautiful Aliebeth (aka Alison Meeder)

Alison passed away yesterday. She had been unreachable by phone or email since Tuesday, so last night three of us who speak with her daily went to her house to make sure she was okay. We found her in her bedroom.

Alison was a smart, beautiful, and as we all know, hysterically funny woman. She was also a severe alcoholic. After one year of sobriety she began drinking again, and tragically did not make it through this last binge. I am doing everything I can to keep the image of the sarcastic unicorn loving beautiful girl in my head, because the person I saw last night was not our Aliebeth.

Alie, I hope you are at peace, and I bet there are all kinds of heavy metal unicorns where you are now.

She was twenty-seven years old. Her MySpace page still exists. It says that she last checked in on December 12, 2006. It announces her current age as thirty. Her “default image” is of a humanoid robot and a robotic-looking unicorn standing side by side in a heavenly mist. Robots, in theory, don’t die. Unicorns never existed. And why the fascination with unicorns in the first place? At one time, I would’ve taken a Freudian approach. Horses were associated with masculinity—i.e., “strength”—in ancient Greece, and the addition of a horn seems obviously phallic. But horses are fragile. Without human intervention—and even then—a fractured leg can easily prove fatal. A predator attacking a fleeing herbivore will often go first for the legs, aiming to maim it. The imaginary horn supplies a defense otherwise lacking.

So Alie’s choice of symbols have come with time to make sense to me. Her early death has not.

A reedited version of this piece appears in the nonfiction collection Subversia.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

D. R. HANEY is the author of a novel, Banned for Life, and a nonfiction collection, Subversia, the inaugural publication of TNB Books. Known to friends as Duke, he lives in Los Angeles.

6 responses to “Death of a Unicorn”

  1. D.R. Haney says:

    Original comment thread:

    Comment by Rich Ferguson
    2009-05-07 05:39:25
    This was achingly beautiful and tragic, D.R. I’m sorry for your loss. Be well, and perhaps our paths will one day cross in our city of angels.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-07 18:50:41
    …Or our paths will cross again, though next time I see you at the Fix, hopefully it won’t be as awkward as it was the time previous. I just had to walk up and see if you were who I thought you were. But didn’t it make you feel like, you know, Brad Pitt or somebody?

    Comment by Zara
    2009-05-07 10:53:31
    Your take on the unicorn’s horn is just beautiful D.R. Sad, but beautiful.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-07 18:47:12
    Thanks, Zara.
    I don’t think sad writing “sells” so well, but I’ve been in low spirits of late, and just kind of thought, “Fuck it,” and went with what my fingers wanted to do.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-05-07 20:40:26
    I’m glad you did.

    Comment by jonathan evison
    2009-05-07 20:21:57
    . . .holy smokes, duke, this was incredibly hard to read it hit so close to home . . .last summer a dear friend of mine drank herself to death . . . i was on tour when i got the call, in the middle of an interview with carolyn kellog for l.a. times jacket copy . . .needless to say, the rest of the interview was a bit of a downer . . .i still think of her almost every day when i scroll through my cell phone numbers, ’cause she’s still in there . . . once i even texted her . . .

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-08 09:59:31
    Ah, man, that’s awful. Was it something you saw coming? But we never do, do we?
    I can never bring myself to scrap the numbers and addresses of the departed. I think Joan Didion said something along those lines in “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

    Comment by Lenore
    2009-05-08 08:25:09
    this is lovely. you’re doing your part in providing an image of who she was, not what she did. that’s wonderful. i wish i could have met her.
    also loving the unicorn horn analysis.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-08 09:33:30
    “you’re doing your part in providing an image of who she was, not what she did.”
    I would never have seen it in that way. It somehow makes me feel a bit better. Thanks.
    I wish you could have met her as well — that is to say, I wish it were possible.

    Comment by Megan Power
    2009-05-08 09:20:41
    This post did not go where I thought it would. It was really heavy. You excel in chronicling life cut short. When are you going to tell us about your own near fatal experience?
    It seems doubly shocking/tragic when women drink themselves to death. Though I just read that female alcoholics have 50-100% higher chance of dying than male alcoholics.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-08 23:54:30
    Ah, I now see, as I somehow didn’t before (it was a heavy day!), that you ask about my own near-fatal experience.
    To belatedly respond: I wrote a version of it in my novel, so I guess I feel a bit tapped out in that department. But the circumstances (though not the injuries) in the novel were skewed. So maybe, since I’m flattered that you ask, I will indeed one day write about it here as it really happened.
    The short version: I was mowed down by a car in a crosswalk, tossed God-only-knows how many feet away, underwent numerous surgeries to reconstruct an arm and a leg (still have to have another surgery to remove the rods and nuts and bolts in my body), and had to learn to walk again.
    But I can walk, and so consider myself a very lucky man.

    Comment by Megan
    2009-05-09 05:24:45
    There was a teaser about your own accident in an earlier post you wrote. So you still have to do it, maybe an ultra condensed or experimental version!
    Maybe I’m wrong about this but it seems like Alison was interested in you romantically and for various reasons nothing evolved. Maybe you wondered if you could have been the one whose love healed her demons? Or maybe not…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-09 08:28:53
    I’ve been struggling for at least a half-hour as to how to respond, because so much of the answer lies in speculation, and I really have no idea how she felt about me. It’s so easy to flirt casually. I think we both did a little of that, but never with any serious intent on either part.
    But I do think that if I’d ever been courageous enough to go deeper — that is, to ask about her past and listen and comment occasionally (or, as is my wont, at length) I could have been helpful to her. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could ever have been helpful enough.
    But even knowing that — and I do know it — there’s always that nagging “What if”. Do I feel guilty? Yes, in the sense that, again, I was too cowardly to ask about her addiction and what she’d been though and so on. Because I might — just might — have said one thing that could’ve caused her to pause later.
    But a pause isn’t a full stop.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-08 09:54:25
    Yes, I’m afraid I’m coming off like the life-cut-short guy. I need to recover my lighter side, which at the moment seems to elude me.
    And Jonathan’s remark underscores what you say about say about women and alcoholism. It *is* doubly shocking when it’s a woman who dies from drinking. Because of stereotyping? It must be, yes?

    Comment by Marni Grossman
    2009-05-08 22:14:40
    It’s strange the way this mythology springs up around people who die young. We say things like, “she always seemed to good for this world” or “he wasn’t of this universe.” We say these things in order to make their deaths make sense.
    It never quite works like that, does it?
    A friend of mine died at 19. Looking back, she always seemed to good for this world. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
    And don’t worry about not tapping into your lighter side. We like you just the way you are.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-09 00:20:26
    What a sweet thing to say. Thank you.
    One thing I considered putting into this post, but obviously didn’t, was that twenty-seven has sometimes been cited as the dangerous age in rock & roll lore, because of the deaths at twenty-seven of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain. That surely qualifies as mythology, given that other famous dead rockers perished at eighteen (Richie Valens), twenty-one (Eddie Cochran), twenty-two (Buddy Holly, Sid Vicious), and so on.
    As to what you say (to paraphrase) about those who die young being too good to live, it reminds me of this quote from “A Farewell to Arms,” which I used to consider my favorite in all of literature:
    “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
    I’m not as enamored of this quote as I was in more sentimental days, though I continue to bear it in mind when I hear Hemingway dismissed as a no-talent, macho pig. At his best (in the stories, not the novels), he was surprisingly tender.

    Comment by Megan DiLullo
    2009-05-09 15:14:38
    Geez Duke, This was heavy hitting, sad and thoughtful. I adore anything that can make me feel something, be it happy, sad or furious, and you my friend made me feel so much with this.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-09 18:22:20
    I’m honored that you say what you do.
    I think I just might start bawling in a second. Seriously.
    Man, am I emo.

    Comment by Megan DiLullo
    2009-05-10 14:04:02
    Just don’t start carrying a murse and all will be fine.

    Comment by Autumn
    2009-05-10 15:16:46
    You have my sympathies. I lost a friend to an OxyContin addiction a few years ago, and though I hadn’t spoken to him in months at the time of his death, I miss him so much knowing that he’s gone from the world.
    I hope Alie is at peace, and her pain is over, and that you find peace with your loss.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-11 00:09:42
    You have my sympathies as well, Autumn.
    I lost someone else in 2006, someone with whom I’d been involved for a long time, off and on, and I think about her almost every day. For a long time it was every day. But I can’t really write about that, or I can’t in a short piece, because our relationship was very, very complicated, and something longer would be required to do it justice. Yet I don’t think it would make for a novel either. So maybe it will never be written about at all, except in brief mentions, such as I’m doing now. Or maybe, as is the way with fiction, it will all go through a blender, so to speak, and come out as a part of something. Funny; she was a writer herself, and once, when I was on the verge of throwing away a novel on which I’d been toiling for three years and very upset about it, she said, “Nothing you ever write is wasted.” And it wasn’t; aspects of that novel, radically altered, ended up re-emerging in the one I’m about to bring out — but better than they were before.
    Oh, and, Megan, as emo as I can be, there’s no chance of my carrying a murse. I carry my black nail polish in my pockets. (I jest!)

    Comment by Dana
    2009-05-21 08:15:42
    I meant to comment on this the day I read it. Beautiful tribute not overly sentimental, and yet I love that you saved all her messages.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-05-23 03:36:04
    Dana, thanks so much for commenting. I wish I’d caught it sooner.
    I try to save all my correspondence. I never thought for a second that Alie’s would take on the significance that it did.
    But it did. And I’m happy to have preserved a few of Alie’s words, which amount to a far better sketch of her than I’m capable of providing.

  2. D.R. Haney says:

    This comment, from rodriel, appeared on the old TNB minutes before the transfer to the new version:

    I loved Alison. I took her to her first AA meeting years ago and availed myself to her in her efforts to stay sober. After a few months of exploring meetings and dealing with the uncomfortable emotional baggage that comes up for the newly sober, for some reason she stopped communicating with me. In retrospect I imagine its because she had so much trouble with sobriety and perhaps found it difficult to face me. But at the time, her distance broke my heart. Suddenly one day a few months ago I was struck by repetitive thoughts of her after years without contact and an impending sense of urgency. I actually had to go to her Myspace profile and ask one of her friends if she was still alive, and thats how I found out. It was all quite uncanny. She and I were very close for our brief relationship and I’d been haunted for years by a lack of closure which was never about me. I’m glad at least to have had somewhere to express my sorrow at the loss of her.

    And I’m glad, rodriel, to have provided such a place, humble though it is. As you can see, my discovery of Alison’s death was not unlike yours. But I continue to think of her, and indeed recently quoted her in a piece I wrote for Largehearted Boy. And then there’s that issue of Skyscraper, which I just stumbled upon the other day, and it reminded me, without even opening it, of Alison, as it always does.

    Sorry that I was forced to repost your message, but I hope you see mine in response, and please know you’re not alone. Which is a trite thing to say, I realize, but words are never adequate in the face of such a huge loss.

  3. Jason says:

    The scar on Alie’s cheek was from an accident when she was younger, she walked through a sliding glass door during a sleepover. I still miss that beautiful face every day.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Hi, Jason:

      I didn’t receive any notification of your comment and just happened to stumble upon it a minute ago.

      This was one of my first posts here at The Nervous Breakdown, and I’ve taken down most of my early posts, but I left this one up because I had been contacted by a few of Alie’s friends and I was hoping more would see it. Needless to say, I’m glad you did.

      I regret that I wasn’t able to know Alie better, but I can never forget her, and I’m in good company that way.

      Best,
      Duke

  4. Radheka says:

    God, I still miss her every damn day. Thank you for writing this, Duke. Xo

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Hey, Radheka:

      I just happened to discover your comment without any notification of it. I’m glad I left this piece up. I’ve considered taking it, and other of my older writings, down, but I’ve left this one so that it can be discovered by any friends of Alie’s who haven’t seen it already.

      I hope the new year treats you well.

      XO
      D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *