Please enjoy this post where I tell you a story about an event from my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Today’s story: like the back of [her] hands.
I’m at my friends house for a party. As per usual the living room is full of moving bodies and the kitchen isn’t much better. Sometimes if I’m lucky I can sneak onto the balcony and spend a few blissful quiet moments outside, away from the heat and the noise. The house slants over the edge of a large hill overlooking a lake and trees bundled together so tight that it’s more forest than anywhere I’ve ever lived. Even now in the early spring, before things have really come into their own, it’s greener than the sea and more foreign than my hands.
But it’s her hands now. Pulling the side door open to step out on the balcony. Pulling me away from my thoughts. I don’t know her but she wants to follow me, wants to talk or wants to connect or wants the glass in her hand and the glass in my hand to clink against each other in some meaningful way – sharing a new moment. We don’t though because as the door swings wide six bodies spill out from behind the flood gates and the noise from inside is transferred to the space around us, filling up each inch of the wood floor until the tree-filled air is gone. I sneak back into the kitchen. Away.
I end up, a different drink in my hand, on the floor of the kitchen. This is often where I live at parties. Below. Ducked down under eye level to escape the mouths and mouths that loom above me. Brain fuzzing in and out, feelings fuzzing in and out. As much as I love to meet people, this isn’t how I ever want to know someone. I don’t want to know them loud and bombastic. I don’t want to know them with their fake smile and their best faces. Which is why I stutter when a man sinks down to my level. His face is quiet, hair fading from the top of his head. His eyes are soft and he asks me my name. And we talk for a while and he’s nice but his name comes and goes and his occupation comes and goes and he’s fine. And then she comes back over and it’s her hands curling around his shoulder. Ring cresting like a wave. Fingers full and white. It’s her hands patting his back telling him that it’s time to go. Her hands, shaking mine goodbye.
The next time I see her its nearly six months later. She’s sitting on a wooden chair at a different party, at a different place, in the kitchen, body rotated 90 degrees from the table, a bright pink smoothie in her glass a fading echo of the pink wine filling up my glass. This time it’s her hair, an angular bob cutting into the lines on her face – all sharp and clean. Her laugh punches through the air, her husband hoovering just out of frame. She smiles as she recognizes me. Bodies mill between us all night but eventually the churning tide puts me in front of her and we talk but I couldn’t say what we talk about. Her hands curling sharply around her glass, her hair cascading down over her eyes. Her skin is pulled over her bones, the long sharp lines of her nails click when they play with the beads of her necklace. White on white. Her face looks pinched now but I don’t remember it well. Like her name it rolls off my tongue.
Amy. Cindy. Mandy. Sarah. Joan?
Even though I can’t recall her name but she remembers mine because the next morning she friends me on Facebook. I tell myself, it’s just politeness. It’s just what you do after a party. You pretend you really want to know someone. You pretend you are friends. You pretend you’ll ever invite them anywhere. Click maybe and never show up in their life again.
But that’s not quite right because she messages me out of the blue one day and asks me to go to coffee with her. I feel ecstatic for a moment, this is almost like the beginning of a friendship. No room here for maybe.
We meet and she smiles and then she sets off a bomb. Or more realistically, a bomb is set off in her. She casually says she has cancer and I casually stare into my latte and try to pretend I don’t know what that means. Her fingers curl around her mug and I notice she’s no longer wearing her ring. The lines of her hand are now stark and tight, skin thin and color draining until they seem to be in shadow.
“It doesn’t fit anymore,” she says when I stare too long at her ring finger while mindlessly playing with the ring on my left hand, “lost too much weight.”
This is a weight I wish to lose. This is a burden I wish to un-know. I stare at her face, hair too straight, lines too stark I see it for what it is now. Not hair but a wig. Not friendship, but a dead end. Not maybe, but a no.
I can’t see why she’s chose to share this information with a stranger. And I can feel myself pulling away, I can feel my shell hardening against the loss. Against knowing. And I think this must be it, this must be the problem. No one wanting to love anymore when it is so obvious that there is too much to lose. Any second she’ll blink out like a star. Any second her name will be a memorial, just the start of another poem that wails. How lonely to be a word almost unsaid. How strange to be shrinking and changing into something that is profoundly unknowable but no one wants to know.
And as I watch her fingers grip the stirrer it becomes apparent that I do not know her. And now I never will.
I see her one last time at a friends wedding. A wedding on top of a hill when the sun is setting and she’s got a big camera by her foot but she never moves to use it. She doesn’t bother to record the memories she won’t have time to reminisce about. Instead she coughs into her hands, now thin and twisting branches. She draws them up to her face to cover her hollowed in cheeks, pallid color, sunken eyes. Dehydrated. That’s how she looks. In desperate need of. And when she smiles the skin on her face pulls too tight and her hands flex into fists.
I think to myself: Jane. Ariel. Marissa. Nicole. Rene. Diane.
But I don’t know her name.