Can't You See?
I had sweet pizza and vegan fettuccine sent to the address on Essex Avenue. The street alone sounded Yankee. Essex Avenue. How had a Russian jew from Lexington, KY ended up on that street? I’d seen the Ben Franklin photo of her hair, bald on top, long on the sides. The chemo’d done its job, fucked her over top to bottom. It had stolen the envy of Lafayette High School. Her gorgeous red hair.
We had popped our cherries, popped LSD tabs and popped our first champagne corks together. We’d had babies after forty, and stashed our long ago dreams in safe deposit boxes.
“We should skype sometime,” she said over the phone, when she called to thank me for the meal. Marshall Tucker was singing ‘Can’t You See’ and the Mardi Gras picture of me and my brothers, which hangs next to my desk, caught my eye. I remembered the king cake bakery and the way my eyes would burn from the strong smell of sugar as soon as I walked through the bakery door.
All at once the back of my throat clamped off all the love I wanted to tell Wendy I felt. Instead I sort of honked out a too loud, "Ha!" Then I giggled. “Right. Skype.” I giggled some more. “I’d rather you picture me at 19. Or 26.” Then my sides split and I laughed so hard and long I started to think I might never stop. She got caught up in it. Ab twisting, tear streaming, can't catch your breath kind of laughing. We howled together like that, until we didn’t. And then so much silence we both knew that words weren’t possible and I was so fucking angry that we were locked in this story that we couldn’t rewind or reshoot.
I pictured smoking pot in the abandoned house off Parkers Mill Road. I pictured getting stuck in that cave under Combs’ farm. I pictured the Chelsea Hotel, and Sid Vicious’ vomit and how happy we’d been when Gilda Radner wore our daisies in her hair on Saturday Night Live.
“God!” I manage to say.
A navel orange is wedged inside my chest. My head rests on the edge of my desk and I stare at my lavender toenails. At once I regret the color choice.
“Is it really 39 years?” she says. It’s a shame the past has passed and is passing faster and faster. I’m broken hearted that I haven’t been a better friend. But then I’m broken. Hearted. A fact I’ve known a long time. Broken. Missing hemlines, and husbands, and time to start over. Broken where the seeds can slip into the cracks and not find sunlight. Broken at the gizzard and the guts.
I want to tell her about all my regrets, my wishes and sorrows. But then I realize, that that cake is not worth the candle. After all, every dog has its day. And maybe this day is exactly the dog we are supposed to be having.