I’m remembering my friend Carol—a woman that walked into the wilderness on a Summer day twenty-six years ago and shot herself in the head with a handgun.

I was working in Switzerland when I received the news in a letter written by my girlfriend’s mother. Carol’s body was discovered in the Palisades outside Calistoga by a hiker and his son. She left a note as terse and matter-of-fact as she was in conversation:

It’s nobody’s fault, it was just something I needed to do.

Pragmatic and polite to the end.

By the way, this is not a suicide awareness post. We’re all aware that some people check themselves out under their own recognizance, jump bail, and disappear forever. No, not awareness, but remembrance.

I’m remembering Carol’s bemused and amused smile at my antics while she was at work. She had perfectly straight white teeth. I was a strange creature in her world—she didn’t always know how to respond to me but I was always entertaining.

I remember a first-and-only date that involved a bit of none-of-your-business physicality that didn’t lead to long-term romance but also didn’t adversely affect our easygoing friendship.

I remember that she was a California girl, born and raised in the Napa Valley, with dreams of traveling the world. She never left her home state, citing evasively vague familial responsibilities as a reason she couldn’t leave California.

Most of all, I remember glimpsing the secret room in her psyche in which she kept all the stuff she thought was inappropriate for public viewing.

I was never invited inside to tell her it looked just like my room except different.

Waiting outside the door I’d often sense the opportunity to go in if I dared to ask permission—but I selfishly enjoyed the mystery of Carol because it fed my imagination.

I’d go back in time and ask all the unasked questions if I could. Too late for anything now except remembering.