I'm not one to dwell on mortality. I don't need reminders that I'm not immortal. I'd rather keep on writing about cats and bad TV and doing my best to coax some more smiles into the world. It's pretty rare for me to get all gloomy and serious.
But it's also thankfully pretty rare when someone I know gets murdered.
"I've never known a homicide victim," one of my friends eloquently stated this weekend. "I don't think I care for it."
I have to agree. My friends and I have spent the past week running the emotional gamut from shock and disbelief to anger and confusion and just kind of a helpless unreal ache that something so awful could happen to someone we knew. But it did. Denial stops the minute you see it on the Front Page in this very newspaper.
My friend Jordan Murphy was killed. Her body was found last week in the garage of her home. By the time the police issued an arrest warrant for her on/off boyfriend, he had already taken his own life in a Davenport hotel room. Those are the facts we know. While authorities try to piece together what led to this nightmarish outcome, all that really matters is our friend who is no longer with us, and it's sad beyond words. I just got back from her visitation, and it was a room full of other numb people not really knowing what to do or say.
Somebody asked me this week if I was going to write a column about Jordan or if "it'd be too hard to find the right words." Honestly, there's no pressure to find the right words, because there aren't any. No eloquent prose can undo the unthinkable.
But I can take a few minutes to tell you about Jordan and why we all loved her, why we're going to miss her and why she's way more than just a headline or a statistic. Jordan and I weren't BFF's or anything — but for a few years, she was pretty darn important to my life.
I survived most of my adulthood to date with the unevolved skill sets, maturity level and personal responsibility of your average college student. In my 20s, it may have been charming. In my early 30s, perhaps it could still be written off as quirky. But when you reach 35 and your apartment is still full of pizza boxes, trash and irresponsibility, it's just pathetic. Then I logged onto Facebook one day and saw someone post, "My friend is looking to make some extra money cleaning for slobs and single guys who don't know how to use a vacuum. Any takers?"
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Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. It was embarrassing enough to let friends into my messy apartment, let alone a stranger. That's how I found myself in the ludicrous position of cleaning up the place to impress the person coming over to clean up the place. She knew right away. Maybe it was the look in my eyes. Maybe it was the smell of desperation mixed with bleach trying to cover up the bags of trash I'd just jogged out to the dumpster. Either way, she knew.
"Hi," she said confidently as she walked in and looked around. "I'm Jordan. You cleaned up for me, didn't you?" I sheepishly nodded. "Don't do that. I do that. You do your thing."
Thus began a paid friendship that lasted for years. I pretended to the world that I could live independently without a babysitter while Jordan wheeled by once a week to wash, clean, and brush away the evidence of my continued ineptitude. It was a partnership that got me through the better part of my 30s, and I couldn't have asked for better assistance.
Last week, we ran an article where a neighbor referred to Jordan as "withdrawn." The Jordan I knew was many things, but "withdrawn" wasn't one of them. She was loud, brash, funny, tough, cocky, opinionated and had a laugh that could melt the icecaps. Half the fun of having her clean was just getting to hang with someone so hilarious. Even when life handed her lemons, which it did often and without mercy, she'd find a way to joke about it. Jordan's stories — and there were ALWAYS stories — were epic in scope and more salacious than soap operas. Her unsolicited advice, which flowed fluidly and without prompting, helped me on more than one occasion. From cleaning hacks to dating tips, she was a dispensary of wisdom. More than one of these weekly columns were read aloud to her for input — if I could make Jordan cackle, it was ready to turn in.
Most of all, she was a lioness of a mother who did everything for her two kids. Tonight, I hugged her amazing daughter under the worst of circumstance. The last time I saw her, she was half the height, pouting on my couch that her mom had dragged her to the lame dude's house. When Jordan became pregnant with her son, it was bad news for me. "I can't touch the litter box anymore," she said unapologetically. "No cat cooties for this momma."
Eventually, life took us in different directions. Just as I bought a house and made a concerted effort to finally grow up, Jordan went back to cutting hair and opened her own salon. We'd still bump into each other and share a laugh — and a while back when my parents gave me just a day's notice of a visit, you can guess the first number I called for an emergency cleaning assist. She rearranged her whole schedule that day to help me out.
If you're looking for sage wisdom to cope with grief, keep looking. I'm not your guy. All I know is this: It's super easy to take a tragedy like this and say, "The world is horrible. I'm done with it all." But even in the worst scenarios imaginable, good wins in the end. It always does. At the visitation tonight, there were just as many smiles as tears. When I think about Jordan, I won't think about newspaper headlines. I'll think of her going, "Get off the couch and play some music. The least you can do is DJ for me while I clean!" I'll think of her mopping my kitchen floor while rolling around reclining in my desk chair. I'll think of the time she picked up a cat toy off the floor to discover it was, in fact, a very deceased and very REAL mouse. We both started screaming like ninnies, and when she caught me stifling a giggle, she deservedly threw it at my head before we both fell down laughing.
She was my housekeeper. She was my hair stylist. She will always be my friend. We love you, Jordan.