I have put off starting this blog for more than a year. I have never been good with beginnings, nor endings, for that matter. I have always preferred the middle of any story, the casual day to day feel of setting up a scene. I like background. With that in mind, I am going to start in the middle, also known as, today. I am not going to explain in detail how this blog was meant to be a journal of my Proust-reading journey or any of that pretentious tripe. Just this: A few days ago someone that I have met only once, yet share a love of Proust with, wrote to me about her take on said writer and his writing, I volleyed back my own take, not very different from her own, and a conversation ensued. It was good. It made me think.
With this in mind, I sat down to write. It has been my habit for years to not decide to write about a particular thing, but to let my thoughts wander and choose their own subject. My thoughts chose Molly, so here goes. My path first crossed Molly’s when we were teenagers, she lived in another state. I was dating a boy, he had relatives visiting for Christmas and wanted me to meet his cousin, Molly. We met as planned and, I believe neither of us, was very much impressed with the other, not against, just not particularly interested. A year or so later, I was eighteen, attending community college and working part time in a portrait studio. The boy and I had broken up some time before. A new girl was hired at the studio, it was Molly. Her family had relocated and she had yet to make any friends in her new home. My high school friends had all left for college. Molly and I were both without a social circle. We became inseparable and stayed that way for a number of years. Then, Molly moved across the country with a boyfriend. We lost touch. I wondered about her off and on for years. I missed the ease and openness of our conversations. I got married, found new friends.
Flash forward more than a decade later, my husband scheduled a day trip to NYC to see a film with a friend. The plan was for the two of them to meet up with some people this friend knew for the film and dinner afterward. The friend cancelled. My husband went without him. Upon arriving home that night my husband filled me in on these strangers he met in the city, including a girl named Molly. It occurred to me that the mutual friend may have known my friend Molly when she lived in our city. I did some digging. It was Molly. I came into possession of her email address, but didn’t contact her for months. I was nervous, so much time had passed, maybe that easy connection we had shared had dissipated. People change, the world changes. I have always had this inherent need to preserve my memories and not taint them with the present. Finally, I emailed Molly and we set a date for me to visit NYC. I questioned my husband over and over, during the four hour drive, about how to handle twelve hours with someone I had neither seen nor spoken to in over a decade. He asked if I would recognize her on the street and I was certain I could pick her out of a crowd. We parked in a garage in the village and walked to our meet up spot with Molly.
I knew her immediately, even with three lanes of traffic and throngs of people between us, I pointed her out to my husband. He asked, “Are you sure that’s her?” I was. My husband greeted my old friend and left us together on the corner. We began walking and talking, and never stopped, for twelve hours, our conversation hitting on all topics. We had a lot of catching up to do and I was surprised, albeit pleasantly, that no topic seemed off limits. It was the kind of conversation we had grown used to in our youth. We drank tea, bought books, drank wine, bought more books. (This is, after all, NYC. The book stores are endless.) Molly and I renewed our friendship. We kept in touch on facebook and through email. I visited her a few more times.
Fast forward to the last year and a half, I lost a childhood friend, Vashni, to cancer in the Autumn of 2012. It hit me hard, harder than I wanted to admit. Around the same time Vashni passed away, Molly was diagnosed with cancer as well. It felt like I’d been sucker punched. Molly began treatment. She visited twice that year. We spent an evening having one of those marathon conversations, this one clocking in at eight hours. She was sick, there was no hiding it. I drove her back to her parent’s house in the middle of the night, she looked tired, and I worried I’d kept her up too late. We kept in touch throughout her treatment. A few weeks before the anniversary of Vashni’s passing, Molly finished treatment. She came to visit. She decided to move back to the west coast. I wanted a day with her in NYC before she left, we made plans for my husband and I to spend two days with Molly, just two weeks before her move.
We walked the city. Drank tea, bought books, drank wine, bought more books. Molly moved to the west coast. Her cancer went into remission.
When I sat down to write the other day, I let my thoughts wander. They wandered into an October day, spent in NYC with an old friend…
Alphabet city in the rain, a yellow sweater, and no umbrella.
We seek refuge in storefronts.
You, drawing your hat over your ears, craning your neck, giving your face to the clouds,
laughing at the weather.
Inside, it is darker than any sky that hangs above the city.
At a small table, you order wine and pull off the hat.
Your hair is a whisper, no more than a fraction of an inch or so,
spun out, unevenly, into a cloud of gold.
I have half a mind to touch it, feel for myself that it’s real,
give a tug to the swirl just above your left ear, place my hand, palm down
on the crown of your head,
I quietly smother the impulse.
Women over forty don’t pet each other in bars on Thursday afternoons,
nor do they want to, for that matter.
Instead, we talk about books.
Books we read as children, books we read in college,
books we read last week, books we want to read more than anything else.
It’s a novel idea. Books are safe.
They don’t get sick and fix their eyes upon death.
You order more pinot.
On the sidewalk, we trip over puddles, arms linked at the elbow,
wine clumsy, water swishing in our boots, the rainstorm
having punched the time clock
and gone home for the day.
You, navigating us through streets,
into your favorite park.
A pair of nomads, bedouins
without a plan, or even a map.
You and I,
sitting close together,
on a damp bench,
letting the city curl words around us.