I spent a lot of time yesterday talking to Paul, and others, about Leslie's death. Paul was one of the first people I thought of when I heard she'd died. Paul, and Josh, because I always believed the three of us were sort of invisibly bound by her. We were all, at one time or another, Leslie's pet projects.
Leslie Harpold was one of the first people to befriend me online, in 1996. At that time I didn't know you could actually do that—just say "hello" to a perfect stranger whose face you've never seen, and stick at it long enough for a friendship to follow. She found my personal Web site—it was easier to find them then, because there were only five or six of them—and bullied me into writing a column for a zine she was going to launch the following January. (Again, I didn't really know you could do that online.)
Leslie decided I was a writer long before I did, and I'm grateful for that. I was reluctant to consider that anyone would want to read something I'd written, and I honestly believe that any courage I've been able to summon to share my writing was ignited and fueled by her insistent suggestion. Leslie stuck with me, even when it required foiling a lot of my very exhausting self-doubt, because I was her project.
Really, though, we were all her projects. It took me a while to see that, and why it was actually very sad. She dedicated so much time to getting the rest of us right that I fear she left very little room for herself. She made a lot of well-intentioned promises she couldn't keep. And I know, as frustrating as that was for her many, many friends, it was about a thousand times more painful for Leslie. She did not want to disappoint any of her projects.
Paul and I were joking that Leslie would have found all of these online memorials perfectly nauseating, and would have some incredibly caustic words to share about each and every one of them. I know this is true, because Leslie would have read them all. I'm very angry she's gone, since I could tell she had finally started to take on herself as a serious project, and was really getting some work done. I'm angry because she got cheated out of finishing it on her own.