Tag Archive | goodbyes

This Is Not a Tribute

Graveyard15

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.

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Three Bouquets

Image courtesy of www.redbubble.com

Image courtesy of http://www.redbubble.com

Bobby carefully placed all three bouquets next to him in his usual booth at California Pizza Kitchen.  “His” waitress, Lori, caught his eye and smiled while she was taking an order for a family at the four-top by the kitchen.His kids were to arrive any minute, according to the email that the court-appointed guardian sent last night.

Taking a deep breath, he touched the fake carnation in the miniature plastic vase. He mindlessly shook the pepper so that the red flakes rained on the table from those perfect little holes in the top of the jar.  Even after all the preparation, he felt like an infantryman hiding in a foxhole, waiting for mortars to light up the sky.

Per court order, he wasn’t allowed to have his phone on once the visit started, so he checked his texts one last time.  There was one from Tamara: “Love you and waiting up for you.”  The one-line kindess from his wife pierced the armor he wore for protection.  He didn’t want to be loved right now; he had to protect the beating heart buried beneath his chainmail.

He watched the entrance for the three faces he knew by heart, but no longer recognized.  Hate had changed those faces, distorting them into something Bobby could no longer claim as his.

Bobby sensed that Lori knew this was not a routine visit, because she never came by to chit-chat.  Wordlessly, she had put the food on his table: cheese pizza for Bobby, Jr.; mushroom for Marc; chopped salad for Rena; and nothing for Bobby.

He stared at the bubbling cheese as it congealed.  He had been preparing for this since their visits started to deteriorate.  Lately, none of them would even look at him; they turned their backs on Bobby to study Fox News on the screen above the bar.

Once he came across Bobby Jr.’s Twitter account, Bobby saw the tweet that catapulted him out of denial with brutal finality: “I h8 my dad. We wish he’d leave us alone.”

So Bobby had called off the lawyers. Court orders couldn’t make them love him anyway.  Even if he won in court, new battle lines of alienation rose up stronger each time.

His doctor told him he would have a heart attack if he didn’t stop torturing himself with these visits.

So he bought each a goodbye bouquet.  Bobby knew their mother had poisoned them against him.  The flowers were a fragrant counterpoint to the scorched earth between them.

By 8 pm, Bobby knew they weren’t coming.  Lori boxed the food that his kids weren’t going to eat.  He scooted out of the booth after leaving a generous tip, hoping to God he would never return.  Lori stopped him on the way out and whispered, “You’re a good man and a good father.”

Bobby walked out into the summer air.  He pulled out his phone, texted Tamara, “Leaving now. C U soon,” and let himself cry all the way home.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me