Thursday, July 24, 2008

ways we say hello and goodbye. two.

Yesterday I said goodbye to my friend. My friend who is like my younger sister, a thing I have always wished to have. My friend who I feel certain my mother put into my life.

She is ten years younger and has helped me understand the balance my own sisters have had to navigate between being mother, sister and friend to a much younger sibling, when all I really wanted was for them to be sisters. Funny, after my mom died I felt grateful for the imbalance. Let them be mothers, I thought, even as, for once, I felt most close to them as sisters. And yet, by lack of blood I suppose, I’ve done a better job giving priority to friendship over mothering to r.

Yesterday I said goodbye to my friend. We are polar opposites and, equally, we share experiences as I have never shared with any other friend. My first Indo-American friend. It sounds like a Barbie I purchased.

We said goodbye over weeks and days. Gradually. We were supposed to eat breakfast yesterday, but the date got boggled, and breakfast was quick. After, r. and our friend z. followed me to my hair appointment with coffee. I sat with dye drenching my hair, and we played a game: What will you miss about one another?

Of r., z. said, “laughter. The constant presence of laughter when I’m with r.” And it could not be truer – r. brings about laughter – not because she is so comedic, but because she makes you pay attention to the levity of any given situation. I answered that I would miss the distinct bear-sound that rises from r.’s gut and out of her throat when she is expressing frustration. A sound that makes me laugh aloud the second it emerges.

Of z. I said, “the way she precisely and subtly navigates between complete business-like seriousness and the most unassuming and unpredictable humor – so much so that when she makes a joke, immediately, I take her seriously. Just as I begin to ask aloud a question about whatever comment she’s made, it strikes me that she has joked. And I laugh and laugh and laugh at the perfect delivery of her perfectly dry, yet absurd wit.” Of z., r. said, “the way she takes care of me.”

Of me, r. said, “her really long stories. Because it makes me feel better about my own.” And z. said of me, “there’s something that is not in your words, but in your physical presence, a quietude that impacts a situation.”

There were drinks on Monday night. A light and jovial gathering at a bar where r.'s friends filled the jukebox with dollars. On Tuesday, there was a walk r. and I took to the ginkgo tree at the Old State Capital and an impromptu private tour of the inside – discovering the illusion presented by a stain glass dome we usually view from below – this time we found ourselves privilege to the restricted fourth floor, standing above the dome, noting how much it looked like a theatrical set design. We even got to walk out on the roof and look out over the river. This was followed by a low key and brief dinner sitting on the patio of Chelsea’s CafĂ© while evening cool set in and mosquitoes bit. And on Wednesday, the frantic breakfast and the gathering at a hair salon.

Later, r.’s car finally fully loaded and her house finally mostly-fully emptied of her belongings, she stopped by my house. I humored her (and myself) with a cup of Indian tea. Me preparing chai; I appreciated just how deeply only she and I could grasp the humor of me sending her off in such a traditional way (given our American selves, but Indian when we want to be - r. told me she took a "what kind of Indian are you?" quiz, and she scored the category "fair-weather Indian."). We laughed about the hot tea on my porch swing, even as we sipped.

Then she drove, this little sister-friend. Nicest thing is when she tests out the word “Didi” on me. And it makes me wonder how my parents ever let me and my sisters give up such sweet and tiny conventions.

She’s heading home to Jersey, then off to a wedding in Boston, and in a few weeks, boarding a plane to London. In two weeks I head off to Austin.

Sometimes we draw out goodbyes. We need them to percolate slowly.

SONGS: If You Knew, Knock Loud and Favorite, Neko Case

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