How “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” helped me mourn my best friend

When I was fourteen years old, I lost my best friend.

Just one year before that, I had moved about two hours away from Elise. We were in eighth grade and had unreliable transportation, and even more unreliable dial up. It got increasingly hard to stay in touch. That year has always felt like a loss of time.

Weeks before Elise’s death, and the night before the first day of high school, I got the strangest urge to call her immediately. We used to talk on the phone constantly, and I remember being amazed at how easily it was to fall into those old habits. Exactly one week before her accident, it just so happened that my family needed to visit my old town. Elise and I got to meet for just twenty minutes at the mall for one final time.

I never believed these things to be a coincidence. The universe, God, the powers that be, someone larger than myself wanted me to see Elise’s beautiful smile one last time, and I have always been so incredibly thankful for that. What I didn’t know then was that the universe would bring Elise back to me again, this time thanks to Buffy Summers.

In the seventh grade, Elise talked about Buffy the Vampire Slayer all of the time. She especially fawned over Oz the werewolf (played by Seth Green). I even remember the letters BTVS appearing in her AIM profile. I guess back then I lacked the imaginative capabilities to engage in a show about monsters, so I tended to favor the after-school special-y Degrassi instead. When Elise would talk about her favorite show, I would listen eagerly, but never fully grasp what she meant by “they broke up because after they did it, he experienced true happiness and turned back into a demon.” I also didn’t understand why the name “Giles” would send her into a fit of ironic giggles. But this never hindered the friendship.

This past summer, my boyfriend got into Joss Whedon in big way, and suggested we give Buffy a try. I rolled my eyes and accused the show of being all Twilight-y, and just another exhaustion of the vampire-human-romance trope.

Eventually, I gave in.

Elise had been gone for about ten years, and I really didn’t make an immediate connection between her and the show. When Seth Green was introduced in Season 2, I nudged my boyfriend and said that my best friend in middle school loved Seth Green, and even wrote him fan-mail. At this point, I watched the show with renewed interest, particularly in the Willow/Oz arc.

Willow’s interest in witchcraft seemed so real and empowering to me, so I decided to pick up some books on the practice. While scrolling through Amazon I found a familiar cover. It was a book adorably titled Where to Park Your Broomstick: A Teen’s Guide to Witchcraft. Elise had this very book! She used to tote this around to help her perform spells in her locker. She also had a deck of tarot cards that she would pull out during lunch. I realized that Elise was inspired at age 14 in the same ways that I was inspired at 24. I was experiencing a part of her life a decade later.

I became engrossed in the show, and by Season 3 I found that I couldn’t stop watching. I once cancelled dinner plans on the pretense of being sick, just so I could finish Season 6. Elise was all over every part of it, every character. There’s this scene where Willow and Tara look at stars, and Tara points out the “pineapple in the sky” constellation. During a night swim in my pool at age twelve, Elise did the same. She had lived in Hawaii for a time, so I had assumed that this knowledge came from the natives she knew. When I was able to trace that memory, her words directly to their source, I felt closer to her than ever.

I was learning more about my best friend and interacting with her on a daily basis again. I had questions for her: How did you feel about Spike and Buffy? Was Willow your favorite?? Did Buffy’s “death” at the end of Season 5 make you sob uncontrollably?! Ultimately, though, I was content without having these answers. I could piece together bits of Elise’s personality through the show, and that brought her back to me. It was time regained. In this way, Buffy the Vampire Slayer became more magical than I ever thought possible.