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The Nikki I knew: an essay from a long-time friend of Nikki Delamotte

November 15, 2018

The Nikki I knew: an essay from a long-time friend of Nikki Delamotte

I didn’t go to my high school reunion. I only kept in touch with two friends after high school. Both Brittney and Nikki Delamontte also moved from Holland, Ohio, to Cleveland after graduation.

And, on Monday afternoon, Brittney called me crying to say that Nikki died in a suspected homicide.

That can’t be, I said. Nikki had just posted something about tacos on Facebook Saturday morning.

I met Nikki in the hallway behind the Springfield High School auditorium during her junior year. I was sitting on the floor with some other girls during a rehearsal of our drama club’s production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” I remember it was as if she had just floated over. As Nikki was talking with another girl about an essay for Mr. Davidson’s English class, I saw she radiated this light. She drew me in with her contagious giggle and charismatic personality.

I had many chances to get to know her over the next two years. It wasn’t difficult. She was someone everyone in school had in common.

A grade younger than Nikki, I admired how she effortlessly navigated social circles. It seemed that she fit in wherever she went. She was probably friends with someone at every cafeteria table. And if they weren’t friends, she could go over, introduce herself, and talk — or rather listen — for hours. Nikki was popular in an unconventional, completely Nikki kind of way.

Even in high school, Nikki was all of the things people have said the last few days, and more.

Nikki was born a gracious soul. I remember running into her in the bathroom at Homecoming, when she was nominated for queen. She complimented every single girl in the bathroom, including another nominee. She brushed off compliments to her own black dress, and unlike so many other girls, she did not have French manicure or ringlet curls. She never put on an act or hid her emotions behind a mask.

I don’t remember who was crowned queen, but I knew Nikki embodied that crown. She was, above all, generous and eager to help. I had to ask her for a ride a few times. I’m pretty sure it was out of her way to pick me up or drop me off, but she never let on. She didn’t accept gas money, either.

Nikki graduated in May 2006 but returned that fall to see the drama club’s production of “The Sound of Music.” I thought since she was a college freshman at Cleveland State, she would be too worldly to talk to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Nikki greeted me with a wide grin and a tight hug. As we were talking about her life in the big city, a boy sheepishly approached. He asked me to take a picture with her. He was smitten.

We reconnected after I moved to Cleveland. We randomly ran into each other at the Cleveland Flea, Heights Music Hop and Hingetown Hoedown. Whenever we did, the world felt a little smaller and a lot more kind. We were in our early 20s and coming into our own. Nikki was finding her passion, her people and her voice.

Nikki was by default cool. I had always known that. I didn’t realize how big of a deal she was until a former co-worker approached me at a Sofar Sounds concert and asked for an introduction. Nikki recognized Julie from Twitter. She had a knack for remembering people.

I started following Nikki more closely on Facebook as she started writing for local media outlets. I noticed she would mark “maybe” or “interested” to several Facebook events, frequently double- or triple-booking herself. I once teased her about defying the laws of physics, and she said it was for work. Of course, it wasn’t just work. She was pursuing her passion.

Her enthusiasm for Cleveland was contagious, so I RSVPed, too. Nikki became my personal tour guide. She introduced me to many of Cleveland’s lesser-known gems like La Plaza Supermarket and Ingenuity Fest that I, in turn, introduced to others.

Nikki wasn’t just there for the good times. Earlier this year, I needed some advice and, if I’m being honest, a confidence boost. Nikki gave one hell of a pep talk. She insisted on coming across town during rush hour to my neighborhood so she could buy me dinner. She would randomly check in on me, like my Instagram posts and compliment me on my work.

And though she would never say she did anything special, the testimonies that have flooded Facebook prove otherwise. Nikki meant something to so many people whether they had read her work, met her once or, like me, were lucky enough to have called her a friend.

She showed me by example what it means to live a full life, how to treat others and how to make a difference in people’s lives. A good part of who I am is because of the person Nikki was.

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