I closed the front door and began backing toward my car. With each tentative backward step the kids waved more fervently from their perch at the kitchen window. I returned their farewells with grandiose pantomimes of kisses caught and blown. I eased into the driver’s seat of my car, my gaze still fixed on their faces.
I wrenched the key in the ignition, steeling my resolve to put the car in reverse. As the Jeep shuddered down the driveway, I glimpsed in the rearview mirror the three car seats along the back. They were startlingly vacant. I pumped the brakes as the thoughts of “I should at least take the baby,” began to invade. I reached across the passenger seat and grabbed my bags. I heaved them over my shoulder and into the car seats that seemed to be aching — as I was — to be responsible for something. I slid the gear shift into drive.
Your friend needs you. And you need you.
I arrived hours later, brittle from travel but curiously energized by the distance that passed with music or silence instead of questions about crustaceans and why Nathan is allowed to drink Dr. Pepper. I had time to kill until my friend could escape work. I flitted in and out stores, marveling at the irony of having occasion to shop but still none to wear any of the things I wanted to buy. I stumbled into a cosmetics store where the employees clad in black were reminded, presumably on account of all my free radicals, why they ventured into this line of work. While they paraded serums before me and forced my vow to begin doing everything I could to make my pores stop looking like pores, I noticed a bottle of perfume I had once owned sitting on a shelf. I watched the spray land against my wrist and inhaled its familiar bouquet. Memories of the high heels stored under my work desk, never having taxi fare and the neighborhood Thai menu floated behind my eyelids. I drew another breath and remembered all the nights that began across a table from a date and ended across a couch from a girlfriend.
Despite buying some other products dedicated to minimizing things about me, I left the store clutching the perfume that had maximized the long-shadowed facets of my identity.
When the time rolled around to meet my dear friend, we found ourselves facing each other across a pulsing avenue. We grinned over the rushing cars as if it were just another one of the many nights after work that we had shared, but when we grabbed each other, I felt the ache of too much time between hugs. We walked with the easy amble of people whose bodies had learned long ago to synchronize their strides and to accommodate the hand gesticulations of the other. The concrete flowed underfoot as quickly as the words left our mouths, and the weekend was underway.
The next two days were spent luxuriating in the consumption of meals and the other’s memory of how something really happened. I reveled in that clear feeling that chases time spent between real friends. Talking with full mouths and slapping tables in recall of something funny that was nearly forgotten. Conversations that continue through an open bathroom door even after the other has begun to shower. Parallel reading the revolving pages of magazines. Choosing meals to share with someone who knows I’m only looking at the appetizers and desserts section of the menu. Hearing and shrieking the phrase, “I can’t believe I forgot to tell you this,” more times than I thought possible and thrilling at each time it happened.
It felt good to be with my friend. Just my friend. Not My Friend Who Calls During Bath Time. Or My Friend From Where I Used To Live. Or My Friend Who Doesn’t Have Kids Yet. Just my friend.
And it felt good to be with me.
Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast, where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog I’m Gonna Kill Him. Follow her misadventures on imgonnakillhim.bangordailynews.com and on Twitter @gonnakillhim.