A Tribute to Esme

The older you get, the crueler life can be. This is particularly true of the evil and arbitrary nature in which we lose people we love. Early yesterday morning at the start of a new year, while a number of us were out celebrating, sleeping, scoping out the after parties, or rounding the drive-thru, we lost Esme. I’m mindful that her friends or family members may read this post and don’t want to cause them any more pain. But Esme was a wonderful human being who deserves to be celebrated. I hope to do that here. I believe I have a singular responsibility in paying tribute on this blog because of the folks who showed me support, Esme was an MVP in an over-sized Feminist Music Geek t-shirt. I’m lucky to be one of many people who can claim her as a friend.

Esme was a teacher and gave the gifts of listening, improvising, and problem-solving to her friends. She was an amazing Girls Rock Camp counselor and became a model for how I present myself in front of students and run a classroom. She was hilarious–always quick with a joke, a story about her mom, or a day-after reel about a night out on the town. She was also tiny, but always seemed larger in part because she could frequently be seen at shows or parties holding a tall boy or a long neck seemingly a third her size. When I lived in Austin, I would frequently chat with her while she pulled a shift at Waterloo, when we found each other in some mutual friend’s kitchen, or when we’d both be taking in a Ted Leo show. Every time we’d say our goodbyes, we’d always hug, bemoan that we weren’t closer, and promise to stay in touch.

Then I moved away. During the past month or so, she tried to touch base on gchat. But I selfishly couldn’t pull myself away from school work, and now I wish like fuck I had. Because I probably wouldn’t remember what book I was reading or what assignment I was grading, but I know I’d remember talking to Esme about the records she was listening to and nights out with her sister or our friends. I guess the truth is that you can never prepare for losing someone so suddenly, and thus there is never enough time. And quite frankly, I always imagined Esme would live a long life, wearing Keds and jean shorts and calling me “dude” at boat parties well into the twilight of our years. Damn.

In this instance, rock ‘n’ roll is our solace. Esme loved rock music. She was rock, as far as I’m concerned. Wild Flag’s “Romance” was one of my favorite songs from last year and the line “the sound is the blood between me and you” reminds me of this lightning rod of a woman. I’m going to close now with a holiday song she liked that takes on new resonance in light of recent events, a song we danced to after a music history workshop, a song from a band we always hoped would reunite, and song from a GRCA band she coached. Esme got it. She knew rock and roll was eternal. As long as we’ve got the sound, we’ll never lose her.

Visit Esme’s tribute site if you would like to make a donation to help Esme’s family pay for expenses.


  1. Pingback: Austin loses mentor, activist and music-lover Esme Barrera in tragic New Year’s Eve murder | ATX Post
  2. Jill

    I didn’t know Esme, but I probably saw her at the Co-op…and I walk that route frequently. I think that the man who attacked the woman earlier is the same man who killed Esme. He was waiting for her, and mistook the first woman for her, that’s why he let that woman go. I wish the APD would look further into this. Often, women are stalked and assaulted. My prayers for all of you and her family. This is senseless and shouldn’t happen…women should be able to walk with confidence in their safety.
    Thank you


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  4. cemelli

    I had dinner with esme just a few days before she was murdered and she told me that someone had broke into her home recently, but stole the oddest things… they left the apple laptop, but took a jar of pennies… i think this is strange… someone knew how to get into her home and did.

    • robyncz

      Alyx–What a lovely tribute to Esme. Listening to the girls’ song again at the end nearly broke my heart in two, though. “Come Fly With Me.” The meaning has totally shifted.

      Cemelli–I hope you’ve contacted the APD with that information in the event they don’t already know. I believe that information like that could be relevant.

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