A bright light goes dim

By on September 3, 2014

Remembering Alicia Cipicchio one week after a bus at Burning Man killed her.


Jackson Hole, Wyo. – After a week in Bogota with fellow future MBA students, my cumulative hangover threatened prolonged immobilization. Lying in bed, I realized I had not checked my email in a while, and a disturbing message from Anya, one of my two roommates in Jackson, demanded I find a telephone.  A “terrible disaster” had occurred, so horrendous that she refused to explain it through text.

Anya didn’t answer. I tried Alicia, and when her phone went straight to voicemail I knew my next call would be to her employer at Rare Gallery. A pit grew in my stomach when I was greeted by yet another answering machine.

Call after call to my friends on Sunday morning went unanswered likely due to the international phone line I was using. So I decided to call one of my colleagues at Mad River Boat Trips.

“Hey Lauren, is there something going on in Jackson I should know about? I got a cryptic email from a friend. Was somebody hurt?”

I waited, longing for a vague dismissal, a sign that nothing serious happened.

“Well nothing really here in Jackson, but a girl was killed at Burning Man. I think she worked at the Rare Gallery…”

No less than 10 South American women rushed to my aid as I collapsed on the hotel lobby floor, in a fit of sobs, gasping for breath.

Alicia Cipicchio came into my life via a force of nature, literally. Displaced from the Budge Drive landslide, she was welcomed into our charming ski-bum cabin at the insistence, and in place of, our old roommate Erica Baker, Alicia’s close friend since college. It hadn’t been three days before Alicia sheepishly admitted to nearly completely flooding our bathroom over the course of a full day. She made up for it by cooking us delicious vegetarian food, sharing wine, and taking us on an art tour of our own house, giving me professional insight into the pieces I have owned for years yet never fully understood.

My fondest memories of Alicia involve music. An avid indie music fan, she usually had a sophisticated playlist blaring through our small home. Admittedly, however, we would often slip into the guilty pleasure of a Katy Perry dancing spectacle. In fact, a substantial percentage of the text messages I received from her between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. were something along the lines of, “dance party soon.”

A more difficult morning I faced this summer was made brighter when Alicia woke me up to the sounds of Iggy Azalea, designed to pump me up before a melancholy half-day court case. She accompanied me through the entire meeting, a true demonstration of her intuitive nature and ability to be an excellent, loving friend.

Alicia’s talent and brilliance is evident in everything she did, and her artistic touch permeates our home in a way that makes it impossible to believe that she is not coming back to help us water the garden or arrange another gorgeous bouquet of flowers for the kitchen table. The instinct to bang on her door in the morning to catch up on each other’s gossip remains, but the sign we have placed on her door to remind us not to enter until her family arrives sucks the warmth out of the hallway; it leaves a cold void that refuses to be filled.

I think one of the more inspiring aspects of Alicia’s personality was her adventurous, extemporaneous spirit. It is a trait I admire and aspire to in my effort to live each day to the fullest. Few people know that she had just been approved for a work visa in New Zealand, and had planned on moving there in the next couple of months. No job, no place to live yet, but she had confidence in the journey.

“Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterward” says Tina Fey, and Alicia and I tended to agree with her when figuring out how our days would unfold. It is her love of spontaneity, I believe, that brought Alicia to Burning Man this summer. I had recounted my past experience with her in which I had left for Black Rock City with merely a day’s notice for the 2013 BM festival, but she had said nothing to indicate that she was also considering doing the same this year.

Alicia had a deep, loving heart, and I was privileged to become so close to her in the time we lived together. Her high school was only 15 minutes from mine, and we had many mutual friends from our hometown of Charlotte, NC, but I did not have the pleasure of getting to know her until this year. In this short time Alicia and I had begun to confide in each other the secrets we hold most dear to our hearts. My spirit aches for the friends and family that have also been blessed enough to have her in their lives. May we all be so lucky to live at least a portion of our short lives like my dear, incredible friend, Alicia.

About Gabrielle Kouchacji

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