is the rare bright moment in a long, bad memory.Florence
had just gotten sick
and days and weeks were scrambled into bloody battles of panic and fear that felt like driving down a treacherous mountain road in a hurricane with your eyes closed.
Somehow in the midst of our lives shattering, I got out for a free evening. I remembered I wore something pretty and even took a pretty handbag. I was determined to reclaim some part of something called 'hope' or 'I do have a life' or anything but what I did day in and day out.
There was a barbecue/fundraiser for some radical literary magazine in the backyard of some one's 20-something street studio apartment. The old school of writers were there and many were old. I knew no one except one person and she was busy either panicking about the reading or honing in potential sources of nourishment both living and dead.
In my rush to wear different clothes than the ones I wore taking care of Florence, I had forgotten how much I hated parties and how painfully inept I was at speaking to strangers.
I grabbed a soda and out of the corner of my eye saw a woman so open and self-confident, she seriously had it going on. I thought "she's the coolest person here." But couldn't ever imagine getting to know her. She was, in friends-ville, out of my league.
I decided to be zen-like in the hell I suddenly found myself in. I sat down on a rock in the tiny backyard and pretended to just be. How or why she sat down next to me I don't know but sometimes the universe is kind.
It wasn't just the flattery that she knew my work or even liked it. It wasn't just the delight in finding a writer who could carry on a conversation about writing with enthusiasm and clarity. It wasn't just the surprise of hearing interesting ideas about cowboys and westerns and all that American stuff I was clueless about. It was the delight and joy of finding unexpected connection in a time nothing connected.
Years later, she had a barbecue in her own backyard. All the worst things that could have happened since that day have happened. But one or two really wonderful things have happened as well.