Dorothy Wright, 1962-2010
My friend Dorothy died last week, apparently a suicide. Born in Canada, a naturalized American who grew up in Pennsylvania, she’d lived for many years in London. She originally moved there to pursue a PhD in biology or biochemistry. She was close to completing it when she dropped it and took up a career in information technology. She’d worked for nearly nine years for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She was my friend and more for over twenty-seven years, and she will always be a part of my life – a part of me – even though now she’s gone.
I met her in 1982 near the start of the fall semester at UNC-Chapel Hill, when she transferred there from Northwestern. She showed up at a meeting of either the science fiction club or the astronomy club, wearing a Narnia button. By the end of the semester we were dating, and soon I asked her to marry me. We were engaged for about two years, but it didn’t last. We broke up as a couple for good in the fall of 1985. That was her decision. Those two years and that awful sundering were more influential to the course of my life than anything else that happened in it up to the birth of my children.
She was intense, vibrant, and interested in everything. I loved science fiction and science, and so did she, but she also loved, and helped to introduce me to, theater, poetry, and classical music. Being with her and around her family – father from England and mother from New Zealand – made me feel more intensely alive and a part of the world than anything else: more than leaving home, more than being at a large university, more than getting to know the many writers and artists and fellow fans that I began to meet around that time through my involvement with the SF community.
It’s not possible in a few paragraphs to describe the intensity of that time or of her, or to summarize the many years of long-distance friendship that followed. She wasn’t perfect. She craved attention and longed to be part of a larger group, and was willing to sacrifice personal relationships to that longing. But I don’t think she ever found a group that she could belong to for more than a few years before she either moved on or was, basically, asked to leave. She could be jealous, envious, and paranoid, features not conducive to healthy group or personal dynamics. That didn’t matter to me. I loved her unconditionally. I don’t know how long I could have held on if we’d stayed together. Her intensity would have eventually, I’m sure, driven me away. She held on until April 19. I’m saddened beyond measure that my luminous, mercurial, exasperating friend is gone. She helped me become me, and so will always be a part of me. And I will always miss her. A paradox. Nothing could be more appropriate for Dorothy.