I had dinner with my bff last night, Harriet. We met at our favorite restaurant which is not some great little bistro or a diner with a gum snapping waitress with a heart.
We like Spaghetti Works.
A chain. Yes. We both like it because we both adore angel hair spaghetti (I refuse to say pasta) and our spouses refuse to eat noodles of any kind. So when we meet for dinner, we go there. I have the same thing EVERY TIME: Angel hair with half beer cheese and half hot naked. She has plain spaghetti with a giant meatball that she splits with me.
She has beer, I have wine. We both gorge ourselves on garlic bread.
And we talk. Long gone are the days when we used to see each other nearly every day. It's how we met, actually. We both had children in the same Montessori school and in that school, parents had to perform sweat equity as part of admittance. Some parent (the hoity toity ones...and yes we had a fair share of those) picked the easier jobs of buying milk for the school for a year at a time or supplying a bus on field trips.
Harriet and I both chose to work the toddler lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There were about 50 three and four year olds. Our jobs were to set out paper plates and fill everyone's glass with milk. And then just...help. We opened yogurt cups, pudding cups, jello cups and cup of soups. We had certain parents who we hated because they were idiots...like the one who sent a can of Campbells soup with her child every day and we were expected to open it, add the water and heat it up and then serve it. Try doing that when four kids need you to peel their tangerines, 5 need their bananas peeled, one has just spilled their milk and three peed (or worse) their pants.
And keep the place down to a dull roar.
It was a hard job but we became instant friends and have retained that friendship even though her kids now go to public school (her sister died and Harriet and her husband took in her sister's two children and they could no longer afford to send all their kids to Montessori) and she had a surprise baby three years ago and so instead of going back to work as she planned, she decided to prolong the stay-at-home mommy role.
We text daily, gab on the phone weekly and go out to dinner monthly.
So, we had news to catch up on. We talked about softball (her kids suck at it, mine excels), drama club (her son is a natural, the only thing that would be worse than a dancing class, in Liv's opinion, would be a drama one) and spouses (her husband is a workaholic who worries constantly about money, mine has a touch of OCD and has recently had back ailments, so has been crabbier than hell)...
And then I told her my news:
Maria: Bing got another Fulbright.
Harriet: You are fucking shitting me.
I shook my head.
H: When does she leave?
H: You are fucking SHITTING me!
Nope. Not fucking shitting you.
I confessed that Bing had mentioned to me back in December that she was applying for the Fulbright that would go from January 2013 through April 2013 and I had smiled vaguely and said that sounded fun and that I hoped she would get it.
But...the thing is...I NEVER thought she would get it. She applies for LOTS of things and rarely gets them. And what are the odds of winning two Fulbrights in 3 years? So, now I have to be all adult about this and be happy for her when I really want to smash her teeth out.
Well, sort of. I don't really want to do that...I just wish she wasn't so freakin' smart. And I wish that back in December I had said, "ARE YOU NUTS? No way, Ray. You can't leave in January. And losing a salary for 4 months? That is about 16 thousand bucks, sugar. NO. N O spells NO."
Harriet sat back and took a long pull on her beer.
"If Ken did that, I would kill him."
I told her that it would be worse if he did it. She has FIVE kids. One is a toddler. She needs a helper. I don't.
Harriet looked at me hard for a second.
"This is really upsetting you, isn't it?"
I nodded blearily.
"Why? I mean...EXACTLY what upsets you?"
I thought about it. And when I realized my answer I was ashamed.
Maria: I don't want to be alone in the winter. I want someone to be snowed in with. Someone to make hot soup for me. Rub my back."
I sat in silence for a second and then looked across the table at her.
"I'm an asshole, yes? Oh, and can I have my half meatball now?"
Harriet cut her meatball neatly in half and speared my half on my plate.
"You aren't really an asshole, Maria," she said, thoughtfully. "More like a weenie. And that surprises me because you aren't the weenie type. You have always said that having a lid for your pot has been hard for you and now...well...you get four months of no lid and you're acting all scaredy cat. What is the deal, chicken butt?"
I started throwing my hands in the air like a dramatic weenie.
"I DON'T KNOW!" I sputtered. "I just...HATE the idea of her not being here for four months. What if she meets some Indian woman and falls in love and decides that living with me kind of sucks the big one?"
Harriet burst out laughing and some spaghetti spilled on her tee shirt. She swore lightly and dabbed at it.
"Maria, she is not going to fall in love with a woman who looks like that gorgeous Indian woman in Slumdog Millionaire. Bing still looks at you like she wants to eat you. Ken stopped looking at me with that sort of hunger years ago. Honey...," she started and then seeing that I was dead serious, she reached across the table and took my hand.
"Stop trying to flirt with me, perv," I said. She took my hand and kissed it and then bit my index finger. This made me laugh just like she knew I would.
I tried to verbalize.
Which I am not the best at....
"I know it doesn't sound like me and it scares me too. I mean, I used to be this freewheeling woman, loved my freedom, liked to be loosey goosey and not tied down. And then...I turned 50. And therin lies the rub. I started having....infirmities like rheumatoid arthritis. I got really, really sick and almost died..."
Harriet interrupted me. "I KNOW. I was there. PLEASE don't pull that shit again. I LOVE you. If you aren't on the planet, I can't stand it. I lost my sister. I refuse to lose my best friend. Don't you fucking dare get sick again, promise?"
I said I promised.
She made me pinky swear and I accused her of trying to hold hands with me again.
"Harriet? This obsession you have with me is really cute, but I'm taken. So lay off with the trying to feel me up, okay? Jaysus, what's next? Are you going to try to honk my boob?"
We laughed and took bites. There is nothing better than angel hair with beer cheese. Yum.
"Anyway, I've gotten sappy in my old age and it's scaring the shit out of me. Pretty soon, I'll be checking Bing's shirts for lipstick or demanding to know why it took her two hours to go to Target and get paper for the printer. Something weird has happened, bestie. I've been.....domesticated! I LIKE cuddling on the sofa and watching True Blood together. I like it that we have couple talk, that when we're at a party, she'll lift up her shirt and flash me her boob when no one is looking. And we will laugh quietly because, as my heroine Taylor Swift says, "this love is ours" and all that shit. And now she's leaving. Why the hell does she have this need to travel all of a sudden in the past few years? And no...it can't be to Maryland or Tennessee or Florida. It has to be to Africa and Japan and now...India. I feel like she should want to come home to me each and every night. And it KILLS me to see me going...soft. Pretty soon I'll be wearing an apron and chilling martini glasses for us to have a little nightcap when she gets home from work. I'll even be taking off her jacket and hanging it up and telling her I'll press it for her in a jiff! UGH."
Harriet smiled and took another bite of her spaghetti. She pointed to the untouched meatball on my plate. "Are you gonna eat that? Because I'm still hungry."
I sat it on her plate.
She asked me if I wanted her opinion. I said sure.
Because I can count on her to be honest at all times. That's why I sort of love her face off.
"You're still in there. That wildflower. It's just that my bff, Calamity Jane, has now stopped courting calamity with her suitors. You are committed, Maria. It happens. And Bing is having a minor mid life crisis. She is terrified about her back. She's always been in tip top shape. You've said it yourself. She doesn't even get headaches. And she's so athletic. So, she wants to see the world. Before she can't. What is kind of weird is that you are moving in opposite directions at the same time. You are settling in and she's feeling her oats. Four months will go wicked fast. And you will be FINE. Remember when she went to Africa? You were all sad for about ten days and then BAM! you perked up BIG TIME. And when it was time for her to come back home? You were all god, I don't know if I can stand to listen to her playing jazz ALL THE TIME anymore..it's been so quiet and nice around here, reading my books. We'll have fun. And honey? It's okay to feel unsettled. I'd be unsettled if Ken wanted to do that. It's normal. Wow...never thought I'd say YOU were normal, kitty cat. You'll be fine. And we'll do lots of fun things. Promise. Okay?"
I nodded. And because I truly love this woman, I reached out and took her hand. She squeezed it.
"Now," she finished. "Don't be such a weenie. Let's get dessert. I'm fucking starving."
So we did. And as I drove her home afterwards....we sang every word of Supermassive Black Hole right along with my Muse tape. She is the only person I know who is completely fearless about singing wildly in a car with me. A little off tune, but what the fuck.
I'm feeling better about things. And, to be perfectly honest...I did think about all the things that I can do without guilt when she is gone:
Long hot showers.
Dinners of cold cereal.
Sit on the computer for more than one hour increments without her standing in the doorway, looking at me and sighing.
Listen to music I like while I drive.
And its not like we can't communicate. I learned that when she went to Africa. We can text. Skype. I can flash her my boob over the internet.
And when she comes home, there will be so many good stories. I don't want her to be 85 years old and regret not going to India.
Maybe...I'll learn to knit or join a book club.
Naw. Maybe I'll just be fine.