a story of friendship, but more
| It had been nearly a year. We’d not seen each other in ten months. Too long. Way too long. Emails and phone calls kept us going. It seems I can never get away, either from lack of time, lack of money, or just being too necessary at home. So, she came to see me.
I went to the airport to pick her up an hour early. I always get lost out there. I didn’t want her to have to wait like last time. Any time spent waiting for me would be time wasted, and we had so little time. These visits are always too short, but this one would be even shorter.
It was good that I was early. Her flight arrived early. I only had to wait about half an hour. I sat in a rocking chair near the security check station in the terminal, since I couldn’t wait at the arrival gate. I saw her through the security gate that blocked entry to the gates. She’d highlighted her hair; she was almost blonde. It didn’t matter. She could’ve been bald for all I cared. She was finally here, and that’s all I cared about. She came round the bend and stopped just on the other side of the security desk, teasing me. She knew I couldn’t come and get her without being treated as a terrorist, and she stood there smirking at me. She couldn’t do it for long, though. She needed me, too. She stood there just long enough to let me know she was teasing me, then came on through. She dropped her bag and we hugged. It really had been too long. I didn’t want to let go. She smelled as I remembered, of coconut and vanilla.
We claimed her baggage and headed for home. I was so giddy at finally seeing her again, that I almost missed one of my exits. We got home just in time to greet my husband, who had gone out and got us cheesesteaks for supper. Nobody cared about how late it was or how fattening the food. It was a celebration. After we ate, the kids and my husband went to bed. She and I stayed up enjoying each other’s quiet company until three in the morning. We were both exhausted, and falling asleep on the couch, but reticent to part company, even for bed. Finally I took pity on her and made her go to a real bed. It was obvious she had had a very full and tiring day, and we did have lunch plans for the next day. It was hard not just to stay with her that night, but I had to be ‘mom’ in the morning and get the kids off to school. I’d have never got up on time if I stayed with her. So, I hugged her goodnight, told her I loved her and that I was happy to have her here, and went to bed.
Three hours later I was up getting kids going and off to school. By 7:15 they were out the door. I was still exhausted, so I climbed up the stairs and crawled in next to my friend. I curled up next to her, my arm around her waist. She rolled over and threw her arm around me, our faces so close that it felt like we were breathing each other’s air. I could’ve kissed her then. I wanted to. We were so close; it would’ve been so easy. I didn’t. I just watched her sleep, glad to be this close, afraid to mess things up.
She didn’t need me to add any more upheaval and confusion to her life. Work was very nearly unbearable, and her marriage was even worse. She had enough to deal with without me adding to her woes. I just wanted to be whatever she needed me to be. I would’ve done anything to ease her pain. I made it my goal to ensure she was happy, comfortable, nurtured and loved while she stayed in my home, to give her the strength to face what she would have to face when she went back to her own. More than that would’ve been too risky, possibly even disastrous. I couldn’t risk destroying the best friendship and love I’d had for half my life.
The morning cuddle became a sort of habit while she was here, and on Saturday, I stayed the whole night with her. She was upset because her husband wouldn’t answer the phone or call her back, and she figured he was doing drugs in their house while she was gone. I stayed with her to keep her mind from dwelling on it. I probably didn’t quite succeed, but at least she was not alone, and she could lean on me if she needed it. I’d have poured all my strength into her, if that’s what it took.
During the days she was here, we drove around a lot, like old times, but in different places. We chatted and laughed and just rode in content silence, listening to music and enjoying the scenery. We sat with each other in the evenings, massaging each other’s feet and watching TV.
Before we knew it, Monday arrived, the day she would return home. Five days, gone in what felt like the blink of an eye. I lay with her that morning, combing my fingers through her curls, soothing her brow, willing her to rest until we really could wait no longer. She lay on her back, and I draped my hand across her stomach. She put her soft slender hand across mine, giving a tender stroke now and then, but too relaxed to keep it up continuously. I could’ve easily stayed like that all day. Finally she opened her pale blue eyes to find me watching her. I said we should probably get up, since it was nearly lunchtime, and she still had to pack. We reluctantly rose and prepared for the time later that afternoon when I would drive her back to the airport.
We showered and went to a late lunch. We shared the meal with very little conversation, both of us trying to steel ourselves for the parting only a couple of hours away. We went back to the house and waited. One of my sons requested to go to the airport with us. I told him no, for two reasons: one, I was selfish and didn’t want to share my friend, and two, I didn’t want my son to see me fall apart after I put her on the plane. Which of the reasons was stronger, I can’t say.
We left early for the airport, since her flight was at 5:15, and we didn’t want to get caught in rush hour traffic. As a result, we had almost an hour to spare after checking her in for her flight. We spent the time nursing sodas that were too sweet in the sports bar, talking little and missing each other already.
She mentioned that she and her husband had once dreamed of taking an Alaskan cruise, but that it didn’t look like that would ever happen now, with her husband’s depression and drug problems, and the likely dissolution of the marriage. She said maybe I could go with her. Then she stopped herself, saying maybe I wouldn’t want to go there. I think my answer may have surprised her, because her eyes flashed and widened when I said I’d go anywhere with her…even the depths of hell, I said, adding that I think we’ve been there a couple of times already.
A few minutes later, I walked with her to the security check-in. She turned around and hugged me tightly. I kissed her cheek and told her I loved her, breathing in as much of her as I could, knowing it would be months before I could do it again. We let go and she turned to go, then turned around and hugged me again. Finally I told her things would be okay, to be strong. I put my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes, told her she’d be all right and then that she had to go. I turned her around and told her to go. I walked around a pillar and watched her weave through the little maze to the security station. She turned around looking for me when she got there, but couldn’t find me. She handed her bag to the man and turned around once more. She found me this time. We waved good-bye and I headed back to the car, tears rolling freely.