JeJu

R.I.P. bearmouse

In food on 08/24/2009 at 1:22 pm

Last night we found out that our dear friend bearmouse died sometime last week. The when, where and hows are a bit murky, but the funeral is on Friday. I’m in shock. Angry at the injustice. Confused by the circumstances of what really transpired. Maybe in time, things will be sorted out.

We both took the day off from work. Feeling antsy, we walked around the neighborhood and went to our Portuguese bodega to get the daily catch of fresh fish head. By the register, there was a little basket of a green fruit. The cashier told me they were figs and just to eat them fresh and raw. Or, if I didn’t like the texture of the skin, to peel that off first.

green as youth

The skin is slightly rough and dented. When I cut the fig open, it was so messy compared to the staid outer covering – most reminiscent of a cross section of a seminiferous tubule, even though everyone knows a fruit is actually an ovary of the plant.

delicious ovary

The taste of fig is sweet, and the texture slightly mushy in opposition to the QQ peel. It’s a tiny package of goodness, deceptively simple, which is just like how bearmouse was, a tough cookie, and yet the sweetest, most pure and innocent person in our class, taken away much too soon. She would have been a very empathetic doctor, given that she treats everybody with respect in her humble manner. I’ll miss sitting behind her in lecture and smiling at her cute anime desktops displayed on her teeny weeny laptop.

I knew bearmouse even before med school began. We were in the same interview group, the last one they were conducting for the year. My first impression of her was that of a demure and courteous person. She was that and more. She never had a harsh word for anyone, but when she was frustrated, she’d clench her fists in her cute way that made everyone around her smile. Kindness just oozed out of her, and that’s what people latch onto first when we remember. She made her parents proud with the way she carried herself, in private and in public. She even hand-wrote thank you notes in her perfectly dainty script after she came to your party. That’s how considerate and appreciative she was of others.

Bearmouse knew how to have a good time too. We had a dance club at school, started by our mutual Robot friend, something fun to de-stress our bodies and minds. From ballroom and Bollywood to breakdancing and hip-hop, bearmouse would scoot along with good cheer, her giggle tinkling like bells while we boogied, arm-in-arm, in the empty classroom. She was an integral part of the troupe that showed off their mad skillz in the ‘4 Minutes’ routine at the year-end school party.

Bearmouse was half Japanese, half Taiwanese, and maybe Buddhist. For the Japanese, the ritual is of utmost importance. I think the fig would be appropriate food offered at a wake, dignified and delicious. The Taiwanese also see death as a chance to celebrate the life of the deceased, offering the favorite foods and beverages of the beloved at the ceremony.

It is customary in Taiwanese tradition to place three objects into the casket during the viewing: a rock, a hard-boiled egg, and a jar of pickled bean paste. These symbolize the moments in time when the spirit of the deceased is welcome to come back to Earth: when the rock turns soft, the egg hatches a chick, and the beans begin to sprout. In other words, rest in peace.

Bearmouse is the first person I knew well who has passed away. I don’t even know how to describe how I am feeling. But I know I miss her already.

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  1. You knew her well and I can see her in every word you wrote about her. Beauty always comes to mind and gentleness and caring. I always told her to hurry along with her medical degree to so she could take care of me and my son. I knew she would be the best doctor with lucky patients. We went to Smith together and lived down the hall from each other for 3 years. I am much older than her but she always seemed like the grown up to my college angst and antics. She was always there for me. The other day, i was tackling all the papers hung on the fridge, and trying to unearth her smith senior picture which has hung there since she sent it. i could only see the edge of it, so i moved it to the top, put a little cat magnet on its edge–which i knew she would appreciate–told her i loved her and touched her little nose. i was also thinking about how grown up she now looked on her FB pics. This was probably on Friday, before I knew she had passed. i loved my friend and I will always miss her.

  2. It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.

  3. I never knew bearmouse was an artist. At the viewing, there was a square 4″ X 4″ accordion-shaped book of heavyweight, textured beige paper filled with immaculate pen & ink studies of a head of garlic, perfectly centered, seen in at least 7 different views. It was discreetly displayed on a banquette on the side of the room, close to the back. No one noticed it until bearmouse’s Father showed it off to a guest.

    The two covers were thick brown cardboard with repeating patterns done in ink brush, one with columns of garlic cloves while the other had more heads of garlic in a different arrangement, with strokes of gray tones inside to add depth and dimension. The book was able to close by tying the two short brown ribbons glued against the last folds of the cream paper attached to the covers. Those ribbons each had an accent of a tiny head of paper garlic placed at the ends of the fabric.

    I wish I could have taken a photo of this ‘Ode to Garlic.’ bearmouse’s Father mentioned she had executed this piece sometime in high school, despite not having taken any book-binding class. This is a prime example of bearmouse’s infinite layers of depth that were yet to be revealed to us. But it comforts me somehow to know that she was also a foodie of sorts, obsessed and meticulous about details that others without the passion could not relate to, yet could still appreciate.

  4. Bearmouse was my closest friend. Although separated by distance, our bond was as strong, if not stronger, than it had been in school. She kept telling me she would email me her address, but she always forgot to include it in her emails. I know it sounds silly, but I would mean so much to me if someone could send me her address in New Jersey. I know she lived in Elizabeth and that someone lived in the same complex. Thank you so much for your help.

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