Three major abandonments in my life. I reflected on that, this past Sunday at 1 p.m, as I finally sat down to get some breakfast.
3. Three. (Take your pick. The number. The feelings. The blades.)
My best friend.
My other best friend.
Not necessarily in that chronological order.
But certainly in that emotional order.
I didn't realize as a child that I was abandoned by my family. I just thought I didn't fit the mold. That's why they didn't love me the way they loved each other. It's only later, when I fell in love, when love became a frightening thing, that I realized I didn't know what love was. For years I had to grow accustomed to it. To this day, love still frightens me from time to time.
In my teenage years, I found something magical. A beautiful, profound friendship. We could remain silent for hours, watching the river run in the summer, the flames crackle and rise in the fireplace in the winter. We knew a cozy conversation existed within that silence. Our parents thought we were weird. We didn't give a damn. Our silences lingered. Until that summer. She was sixteen and it was a Sunday. I had just returned from Spain. Spanish boys had taught me how to French kiss. I was going to tell her all about it. I was going to meet her after lunch, but a car beat me to it, hitting her moped in the bright, Basque sun. Christine was sixteen. She would never grow old; she would never French kiss a boy. That summer, I learned about pleasure and death.
When I promised myself never to open my heart to another best friend, was I right? "Beware of your first movements, as they are the right ones," said Talleyrand. I had to take an antidepressant when I lost Christine. My wounded heart had locked its doors. But this new girl kept knocking with her smiles and her enthusiasm. Her sense that life could be fun. She made me see bright colors again. So little by little the doors of my heart opened up and she became my new best friend. She did prove herself worthy of the name. She and her family did everything they could to help me cross the Atlantic with the man I loved (and to whom I am still married after 37 years), despite terrible threats made by my mother.
Almost three decades went by. I kept seeing her as my best friend. So much so that I crossed the Atlantic (the other way this time) when I sensed she was too depressed to handle life on her own. That’s when things began to decay. Or, rather, that’s when the decay started to show. She first presented me to her yoga students as her "best friend," then just as "a friend." A friend who had flown to France because she was worried about "a friend." Later, she sent a birthday present to my husband but my own birthday was nearly forgotten. There was a distracted wish, no gift. For too many years, I had failed to notice that, when she called and I picked up the phone, she insisted on talking to my husband afterwards. When he picked up the phone, she was satisfied. There was no need to hear my voice.
A couple of nights ago, I dreamed of broken dishes.
I am surprised I can still stand up when all within me feels so scattered and broken at the base.