This is not a tribute post.
This is not a post about the string of glowy, happy memories we had together. I have memories, sure, but do you really want to hear about the time I met her at Starbucks after her “bad” oncology visit? We sat outside. She drank one of those Naked fresh fruit juices and nibbled on melon slices. She told me how she rescued her dog and how she survived her childhood. I listened, hoping my presence helped her bear the outrage and indignity of the disease’s intrusion into her body and medical establishment’s constant misspelling of her last name. “Those motherfuckers.”
Before I could claim her as my own, half my friends had already tagged her. The stories I heard. She strong-armed D. into on-line dating by getting her professional portraits and writing her profile. Naturally, D met her husband in less than two weeks, whereupon she was assisted in planning a Hawaiian destination wedding with the help of none other. You know who. She of the Channel bags and the Four Seasons suites. She played mother-of-the-bride, wedding coordinator, travel agent and matron of honor.
I didn’t know her then.
Not all the stories I heard were Mother Hen cum hero tales. Some of them– most?– included phantasmagorical viciousness. She uninvited D. to her own wedding day-of because she didn’t want any “drama.” She cut people out of her life, was known to accuse friend’s boyfriends of defrauding investors, and became famous in my circle for a steadfast refusal to take care of anyone’s feelings.
By the time I was face-to-face with her, she’d already been sick for two years. She liked to joke that the cancer made her a shadow of her former “raging bitch self.” Honestly, I wanted to see her slicing and dicing (so long as it wasn’t my flesh or vital organs). I saw glimpses, mostly when she’d rail against the incompetence of the doctors involved in her early diagnosis or her mother’s shitty habit of hanging her every disappointment on her.
I guess when you’re fighting for your life and engaged in such tasks as “managing pain with morphine” there’s not much energy left over to get your bitch on.
This morning the texts were ominous. We’re going to say our goodbyes. By this afternoon, they were worse. Putting her in twilight. I comforted myself by assuring myself we were hardly more than acquaintances. I was a blip on the radar of her life. “She was really more of a friend of a friend,” I told a co-worker this morning as I tried to sort myself out for a day of productivity in the shadow of those texts.
I didn’t think about the time she came with me and Sadie to get a manicure, though I almost blurted out at dinner with my children, “Mommy’s friend– the one from the manicure, remember?– is dying tonight.” I berated myself for borrowing someone else’s sorrows and claiming them as my own.
I decided it would be my job to console my friends who were closer to her. Sending supportive texts like “Are you okay?” to shaken friends returning from hospital visits. I sent one to B. who saw her this afternoon. His response betrayed his panic– run-on sentences, frantic fragments about her skeletal appearance, her joy that he’d come.
“Her cousin asked me if I was the writer,” B. reported. “It appears she told her family about you.”
Me? B’s wrong. That can’t be right. She must know other writers, right? I rack my brain. I have no fucking idea what other writers she knows. B. thought she was talking about me.
Maybe she was.
Maybe this is a tribute post.