More like a punch in the gut, really....
I've been in the basement during the last couple of days, working my way through the many rubbermaid boxes in which 'important' things have been stored. I've been pitching, consolidating, and filling garbage bags with donations. I've managed to empty five of those big containers, so now we can store the camping gear better!
As I was going through a collection of postcards I used to value, I came across this charming image of a Pyreneean family of the nineteenth century. After I got over being charmed, I thought "Why the heck did I collect this?" I turned it over to discover that it was from a highschool friend of mine; probably from her honeymoon.
She'd sent it from somewhere in France after a "bad trip" to Spain, where her husband got food poisoning in San Sebastian, and they were harassed by the police. They'd decided to boycott Spain and head to France, where she was enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing Carcassonne and spending some time on the beaches of the Med. It made me smile to hear that long-ago voice; she was always the adventurous one. While the rest of us had our noses to the grindstone, she took off to the Galapagos and other exotic locales. Life was always more exciting when she was around. We had twin crushes on a pair of guys we met at an Interschool Student Council Meeting and didn't eat for nine days,just mooning around until we got over it. (She lost weight, I didn't.). When she married her highschool sweetheart, she did the "Rock Lobster" dance, lying on the ground with her feet in the air in her full-on pouffy white wedding dress, having just the best time.
Full of fun, athletic, and up for anything, my friend lived intensely. I remember her being both enchanted and disquieted in equal measure when during one of our philosophical conversations( the kind only seventeen year olds can have) I pointed out how close the blade of the jawbone was to the skin. We both had a frisson of mortality at that.
We lost touch in the 90's, but I thought I'd look her up when I went up north to my grandmother's funeral a few years ago. I found her address in the phone book; she lived near my cousin, so I mentioned that I was thinking of going to see her. My cousin looked at me oddly and tried to find the kindest way to tell me that my friend was dead of breast cancer. I'd been doing pretty well up to that point. Grandma was 94, and alone now that her life partner of 63 years had died. It was natural that she would die one day. But my friend should not be dead. She should be here watching her three athletic brainy beautiful children grow to adulthood.
I am sad that I won't ever be able to share my experience of San Sebastian with her, or try to change her mind about Spain, thirty years later. I'll never get to ask her just exactly what that run-in with the police was about. And I'll never again get to share her invigorating energy.
I miss you, Marji.