What was lost

West Seattle HeraldSome things are irrevocably lost. The time I spent in Perugia—when I was just another young college student in the crowd—feels that way. I had been there for only a little over a month before tragedy struck. I couldn’t say that I knew even my own roommates deeply. There is only so much you can know about a new place or person in so brief a time.

And then, for circumstances to turn on their head… It’s difficult to reconcile Perugia, the paradise, with Perugia, the prison, especially when the duration and intensity of prison dwarfed my experience of paradise. For that reason alone, looking back on my memories of blossoming friendships, cultural discovery, and delicious food feels painful. It’s as if wrongful accusation not only physically removed me from Perugia, but by redefining me as something I was not, it also stole from me who I had actually been in Perugia, and everything I had actually done.

Long ago I gave up dreaming that any piece of Perugia, the paradise, would ever be restored to me. Because that’s life.

A few days ago, my partner, Chris, and I attended our regular Lindy Hop lesson at the Century Ballroom, but instead of heading home afterwards to make dinner and watch Doctor Who, we stayed to eat in the adjacent cocktail lounge with our parents. It had been my birthday in the past week, and we planned to swing dance into the night with family members and friends. While we chatted over a bottle of wine, a young woman and her date were seated at an adjacent table. The young woman and I held each other’s gaze for a moment. Nothing more would have come of it had we not run into each other in the bathroom.

She recognized me first. As I leaned over the sink to wash my hands, she asked, “Amanda? From Perugia?”

I turned to her, scanned her face, and felt an undefined, but unmistakable recognition.

“It’s Ada. From Kazakhstan.”

Ada! From Kazakhstan! It almost hurt how fully I was flooded with memories, not just those long past, but memories given up as lost. Ada had been my classmate at the Università per Stranieri in Perugia. Both of us were new and relatively on our own, so we gravitated towards each other. She would come by my house after class and I taught her how to play “Hey Ya” on guitar. I remembered thinking about her from my prison cell, wondering what had ever happened to her, if she had completed her semester in Perugia, if she remembered me for who I really was, or if her memories of me had been twisted and tainted after my arrest, like what had happened with my Italian roommates. I never thought that I would ever see her again.

“I can’t believe it!” Ada said. “I talked to the police about you. I was so worried for you. I’m so glad you’re home and free!”

We hugged, exchanged numbers, caught up on some history, and I introduced her to Chris and our parents. We hugged again before she departed with her date, and later texted about meeting for coffee and catching up over the weekend. The rest of the night, the rest of the week, I felt rattled. Not in a bad way, but certainly as if my world had turned on its head again.

The calm after the storm never feels quite the same as the calm before. After a dense decade, Ada and I will be getting to know each other all over again. Even so, coming back into contact with Ada from Kazakhstan, Ada my classmate, Ada my friend in Perugia, feels like reconciliation of who I am and who I actually was. I’m no longer alone in remembering. I’m no longer lost. And I’m so grateful.

Published by the West Seattle Herald 07/18/2016.

This entry was posted in Journalism, Meredith Kercher Murder, Personal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to What was lost

  1. H says:

    Amanda, have you ever met anyone else who studied in Perugia and experienced trauma? I was studying at Stranieri in 2011 when it happened.

    I was just now able to bring myself to watch your documentary, knowing that it would feel important for my own recovery. This post brought me to tears, because you get it: What do you do when the experience you’re supposed to look back on as the best of your life turns into a matter of emotional survival? And when those who you so badly want to trust to help you turn away, leaving you alone?

    I know it’s probably a slim chance, but I’d love to connect with you at some point and talk about how the thought of you has helped me through my own story.

  2. Tom Zupancic says:

    ‘So we grow’ (Nick Drummond), that tune came into my mind, for some reason… Lady Lake. It is about loss…


    It was my favorite tune on the whole album. It actually runs through my mind sometimes, even now.

  3. Tom Zupancic says:

    What was lost…

    “Long ago I gave up dreaming that any piece of Perugia, the paradise, would ever be restored to me. Because that’s life.”

    Life. Fair enough…

    But, perhaps, something was gained. A perspective. A realization. A self-awareness.

    Passing through the crucible and coming out on the other side. What is that worth?

  4. I hope you recall more pleasant memories from Perugia, and other points in your life.

  5. Richard Benedict says:

    I followed you from the beginning and was so happy that you were found not guilty. I had no idea the results of the first trial and actually cried for you. The retrial turned out the way the first should have, that’s for sure. Your life will go on and your right , you will never forget this ordeal, but all things are a part of your life and don’t forget , all things are what made you who you are. A loving person who in time will have great wisdom to pass on to your children

  6. Tom Zupancic says:

    “It’s as if wrongful accusation not only physically removed me from Perugia, but by redefining me as something I was not, it also stole from me who I had actually been in Perugia, and everything I had actually done.”

    This is the hardest part. The absurd reality. Forget that you are an actual person. A typical exchange student. An American college girl. An honors student. An artistic idealist.

    Here is where the Perugian authorities definitively defined themselves. Like common thieves, they stole from you.

    It was essentially an expression of who they are.

  7. Tom Zupancic says:

    “Some things are irrevocably lost.” Does that not suggest that other lost things can actually be recovered?

    “It’s Ada. From Kazakhstan.” Something lost… can it actually be recovered?

    Clearly, it will all be different. It will be something completely different. But, perhaps, something important, something good, can actually be recovered.

  8. a parent says:

    I enjoyed this. Its sounding like you have good people around you and the mystery is still there too, in the why?.

    Perugia. Its common to hear someone say “I hate that town” or “I love that town”. As if everyone from the town is bad and of course not everyone is. The town is only dirt, air and buildings with a name, with people and faces and souls. The name or a face invoking a tidal wave of the minds memory vaults to open to that time must be somewhat intense.
    Is it overwhelming happiness to be free from the trap, to have won? or is there anger in the system that was so foul, obstinate, and corrupt at times? or both?

    For me Perugia opens vaults too, I was captivated by your parents, whose age is shared, and my kids were your age then and now. The family sacrifices and ability to fight so long was overwhelming in a positive way. Even today when my memory vaults open up on this “Perugia”, its usually those thoughts first of your parents and family. If everyone’s parent could be so great, it would be a better world, I would think while observing the situation that required nothing short of a battle. It made me appreciate being a parent more, to stand up a bit more.
    As a narcissist I can wonder “what if it was me dealing with that, do I have that much fight, what if my kids were tossed into the nightmare?” I think those wounded in war or killed, are given a medal, the Purple Heart…I think you all deserve as much.

    • Trev says:

      So true. I am slightly younger than Amanda’s parents, but could not imagine having their strength. This was not a foolish trip to darkest Africa or a country with “democratic” in the title ( they never are). Sending your daughter to study in Europe, in an EU nation that you have previously visited, should be safe. No one could have predicted the banana republic that Italy has revealed itself to be, but that was likely small comfort. All the best to you all, as you move forwards.

  9. Tom Mininger says:

    We love those moments of epiphany and revelation because they are preciously rare in life. You not only reconnect with an old friend, you reconnect with that transient interval of happiness that was obscured for so long by the storm.

    I feel a strange envy that you found out who your friends really were when the chips were down.

    I recently read an article claiming that 15% of police officers will always do the right thing, 15% will behave badly no matter what, and the other 70% are basically good people who are influenced by the current prevailing culture of the department; integrity/corruption, professional/unprofessional, thorough/sloppy… Assuming something similar for the rest of us, I bet you are more in tune where people in your life, past and present, reside on this chart than most of us.

    It’s a measure of your character that no one who got to know you ever took tabloid blood money to gossip about you. Yellow journalists and bloggers had to fabricate it all on their own.

    It’s a measure of Ada’s character that she was willing to stand up for you in front of the police when it was not popular to do so.

  10. justme says:

    It certainly sounds like you had a happy birthday. 🙂 You deserve to be happy.

    Try to ignore the half dozen disturbed trolls that sometimes comment; they don’t actually believe what they say, anyway.

  11. S. Michael Scadron says:

    I love reading this. I’ve often wondered whether your Italian roommates really thought so badly about you or were deathly afraid for their careers and privacy, fearful of what Mignini and his goons might do them if they so much as contacted you or didn’t cooperate with the prosecution. Of course as witnesses they couldn’t communicate with you anyway. And they were likely pressured by family and friends to keep their distance. I’m sure they knew full well you weren’t involved because they knew you. But they also knew they’d better keep that to themselves or else. A penny for your thoughts.

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