After the year of surgeries, as I refer to 2015, I am aware from toes to fingertips of the importance of friends. They shuttle you to doctors’ offices, listen to your medication-invoked ramblings, get the tissues for you after one more painful procedure, and feed you.
But I these memories are too close for me to view too closely. I need further therapy. Today I will pay homage to friendship with a goofy tale of two friends who went that extra … step for me.
Many years ago, when my heart was young or at least a tad less cynical, I danced tango. Not the stiffly beautiful ballroom tango but the achey-breakey heart Argentine tango. The dance of the bordellos or in North Carolina, the dance of late night restaurants with good wood floors where the men dressed in black to set off the bright dresses of the women in stilettos. (I wore black Mary Janes with a 3 ½ inch heel, stylish enough heels but thicker than stilettos.) And tango has drama. Hot sticky drama.
At a milonga, the name of a tango flash mob, I was celebrating my approaching birthday when up meandered an ex-lover. Handsome in a calculated and soon-my-degradation-will-show kind of way. A mean as a snake, stab and watch you almost bleed to death before calling 911, ex-lover. And he brought with him his new … friend. Now this was only a couple of months beyond our break-up. A devastating affair where I felt like I had been sucker punched after three months of total bullshit back-and-forthing on his part. She sauntered in on his arm, plopped herself onto a stool, and looked around for an audience. She put on shiny high, 4 inch high stilettos with sparkly rhinestone designs on their straps. The men gaped. A fleeting image of clubbing her with them danced through my mind.
Anyone who has been in this situation knows you have two options. Leave. Damned if I will go that route. Or carry on. My friends rallied around me. I danced my heart out or numb along with my toes as my friends checked on me every ten minutes. Tension was high. Dancers and even the restaurant staff were watching. I wasn’t going to give up. I had a stiff upper lip being British and I had friends. Solicitous and goofy-assed friends who loved me. More than I knew right then.
Somehow I made it threw the night, agreed to meet my friends for dinner the next day, and cried myself to sleep. Putting on my happy face and a drawer full of make-up to cover up the dark circles under my eyes, I drove out to meet them at the restaurant. My friends smiled at me. Mischievous, wicked smiles reminiscent of “I have done something that is mildly illegal and possibly morally ambivalent.”
We drank some champagne before the chocolate cake arrived with the one, only one, candle. And a gaily wrapped present was placed beside the dessert. I made a wish, a completely unrepeatable wish and blew out the candle. I ripped through the paper to the box below, yanked off the lid, riffled through the wadded tissue, and drew out a shoe. I held out the shoe. A used shoe. Not my size shoe. I looked at them. They smiled back before bursting into laughter. I rooted around for the other shoe. Nothing.
“Why did you give me one shoe?”
“Guess whose shoe it is?”
We fell out of seats giggling, guffawing, all the laughing verbs. Eventually, I had to get rid of the evidence by burying the shoe in the backyard next to a patch of Black-Eyed Susans. These are great friends. I’m going to love these friends forever. They had my back. I can’t imagine life with all its ups and downs, loves and disappointments, without this depth of friendship. I hope you have friends like these to help you through life’s dramas.
To all my friends, past, present, and future, love love love.