Tonight at a Chinese restaurant I overheard a father asking, on behalf of his small son, whether the dish he wanted to order was cooked with peanut oil.
"We order from here all the time," he said. "This is the little guy with the peanut allergy."
The manager hurried over to the table. "No no no," she responded, "All the Chinese restaurants use vegetable oil. No one uses peanut oil anymore. Maybe 20 years ago, but not now."
Fourteen years ago this week, my best friend Jenny died after eating part of an egg roll fried in peanut oil. She was fourteen years old.
We asked the server too: was anything we were ordering cooked with peanut products? She went and asked in the kitchen, then said no.
The egg roll was a side dish. At least, that's what they argued in court, later.
Jenny and I were only best friends for a year, but we were intense best friends. Sometimes I wonder idly whether we'd still be friends now, had she lived. Maybe, had that night gone on uneventfully, we'd have drifted apart as friends in high school so often do. Instead, I'm linked to her, to the memory of her, forever.
When I imagine an afterlife I try to wrap my mind around which Jenny will meet me there. If she's still fourteen, what will we possibly have to talk about? If she's watching me from somewhere, does she understand my adult decisions? Or perhaps she's become ageless, drifting in and out of me on the wind.
I haven't had a friendship since that was so unconditional and uncomplicated.
I still miss her.