The Poisoned Ink Well

Tuesday, June 17, 2003


Months later, after her death, I have flashes, like lightening quick memories of tiny moments of knowing her during one of the most difficult times of my life. I remember her friend coming over and talking to me; me sitting cross legged, my head in my hands, in the middle of my living room rug, and him telling me that she was someone that I needed to know. He said that she wasn’t judgmental; she wasn't like that, and that she was good at putting people at ease, and that I needed to meet her and talk to her. He thought that she could make me feel better. I guess I looked like I needed an anchor, a friend, someone who would listen, anyway, she did come over to visit with me.

I can’t remember what we talked about that first day. I think something about us doing laundry together, and that she had the same last name as an acquaintance of mine in another state, and we discussed whether she might be related to him, and she said that she might be second cousins or something. I’m not going to exploit our friendship, that has never been the goal of my writing, although I do exploit myself quite a bit, but I deserve it, anyway, this bugs me, because I know, several years from now, I’ll be sitting somewhere and not thinking about this and it will all come back to me, and I’ll remember her vividly, all the way down to the kind of sneakers, the gray baggy shirt that she was wearing, and how her dark hair fell in big loose ringlets, damp with sweat, and the way her eyes smiled with her, in an intense, instant, Polaroid kind of way, in one big flash of recognition, and that she was like that, like the kind of person I try to be, petal to the metal, take no prisoners, strap on your seat belt and let's go, and I guess she did befriend me, and I know that she didn’t feel sorry for me at all; she just thought I needed to get up off my ass and do something with my life. She was a dynamo, someone who was out to save the whole planet, and she took time in her busy schedule to try and save me; to help out a depressed neighbor, someone she had never met before. What a sweet person she was. I know that I was very lucky to know her and I wish that I had told her that back then.

I thought about her, again, as I was riding up the Talimena Trail in western Arkansas, to the lodge on the top of Queen Wilhelmina mountain last Sunday. I was in a silver Mustang convertible, the sunlight was dancing off the hood, illuminating beads of rain, and changing them into every color of the rainbow, like a prism, a kaleidoscope effect on the windshield, bright beams of light, almost blinding me, and blending in with the gold, tinted shade of my wire rimmed sunglasses, with the wind flying through my hair, a storm cloud chasing, but not over taking us, and my son sitting next to me, chewing bubble gum as fast as he could, and him smiling so hard, it looked like it hurt his freckled cheekbones, and then I thought about her with the same kind of wind touching every strand of her being, and I thought about my deceased father, and his black, 1955 T-bird with the red wings, and about both of us laughing, and me by his side, us sailing by on the same pavement, and then I pictured all of us together for a single precious moment of life, and forever, finally free.