Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tribute to a Friend

". . . all that matters in life is love and friendship. All the rest is a waste of time, trumpery, not worth the trouble."-- Jorge Amado in Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands

I miss my friend, the Divine Miss L. I have known her 30 years, and I don’t understand why she no longer answers phone messages or email, nor why she didn’t respond to a delivery of fresh flowers.

I will always remember L as a golden girl who transformed the most ordinary day into a bright adventure. When scouring garage sales, each item was a treasure worthy of a pirate’s chest. A fast drive in a big, new borrowed car with a V-8 engine, from rural Maryland to a state-run Pennsylvania liquor store before closing, was a chase for James Bond to envy. An Aston-Martin was not needed when we had L’s fabulous talent for adding spice and energy to whatever transpired.

We drank tequila and danced the funky chicken at an old farm-turned-estate by the college boys who roomed there. The last time I looked over that particular hill, it was a housing development for middle-class families. Miss L would have called them “the bourgies,” for the bourgeoisie, a class we were keen on eschewing back in those times of anti-war rhetoric.

Mindshot 1: L lying across the hood of her wee-mini sports car, a gaggle of young men surrounding her, waiting to do her bidding. I believe she was moving that day, or perhaps it was a car problem. Guys fell over themselves to help L, lithe as an impala. She was wearing a knitted vest like a blouse. The V-neck and loose fit was sexy in an offhand sort of way, like L herself. Her special charm attracted guys in droves, all vying for her attention. I admired that. My then-husband, who knew her well, remarked, “She doesn’t sleep with them, you know.” I admired her even more.

For L, summer days were not muggy; they were foetid. Our friends were not our crowd but our herd. She knew the bars that were “loaded with spies” in the Capitol, the best places for crab cakes, and the trendiest boutique hotel wherever she went – before the term boutique hotel had entered the language. Always at the cutting edge of popular culture, she was the first person I know to buy the gas-saving hybrid Prius.

Mindshot 2: One time I lost contact with L for two or three years. We reconnected when we met by chance coming out of an office we'd both visited. Since then, she’s been my friend as I moved here and there along the eastern seaboard, and throughout her own bi-coastal peripatesis* that included trips to Italy and Africa and all the best ski places in the U.S.

Unlike a friend I dropped, who flaunted money when I had none and was so scared for my future, L never did. Mindshots 3 & 4: Friend X swept out of her closet wearing a street-length mink coat she’d just purchased at thrift sale. I was worried about whether I’d have enough rice and beans to eat all week. X was angry when my praise was less than effuse. Friends must be glad for their loved ones’ good fortune, no matter what their own circumstances, she instructed me. Contrast: I was visiting the Divine Miss L during that dark economic time and noticed an expensive piece of luggage on the floor. When I remarked on its fine quality, L said, “Oh that’s nothing” and prodded it under the sofa with her toe. I treasure these memories Miss L.

Her life hadn’t been a sweet barrel of juicy peaches in recent years. There were health issues and other challenges. That has me worried. Is she in trouble, I wonder? Is there anything I can do to help?

There wasn’t a conflict, at least not any I recall. Memory and denial can lead one to suppress such events, and I can be prickly.

If there had been a conflict, wouldn’t flowers suggest that whatever happened was unintentional on my part? I’ve written her that I am willing to apologize, if only I knew what I’d done.

I am conflict-averse. A gal-pal once told me that abandonment was what men do to women, and we shouldn’t do it to each other.

Yet I left the friendship with X, because of her showboating, carping about things I must change “for my own good,” and using me as a beard to cheat on her husband. I stopped answering her letters. This was before the days of cheap phone calling. I regret my behavior, and I hope I would behave more maturely, bravely, and decently now.

At any rate, the Divine Miss L appears to be gone from my life, and I don’t know why. I hope she won’t be gone for years again and that only chance will bring fresh contact.

I am concerned, confused, and if this is intentional, hurt. I miss her, and I hope she’s okay.

* I have borrowed the neologism peripatesis with thanks to artist Carolyn A. Jones:

Peripatesis Definition

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