Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Here and Now

I met Niki when it was still the 1980s. We were in eighth grade, teammates on the (now non-existent) junior high basketball cheerleading squad. She had been living in Seattle, and before that, Germany, a former army brat of that most exotic breed-- the rare person in our town who I hadn't known since birth. We didn't go to the same school at that point, so our friendship didn't solidify until the next year, when we were freshman in the same brand-new regional high school. And once basketball season rolled around again, we (along with our mutual bestie Tanya) were like glue in pretty short order. We bonded over the same terrible/wonderful music, we crushed on the same pie-in-the-sky upperclassmen, and we just got each other. To this day, nobody makes me laugh until I cry like Nik. She is the wickedest of the wicked funny ladies. When we graduated high school and went to colleges hundreds of miles apart, we remained as close as ever. I have a box crammed with letters from her over the years. Letters, can you imagine! We were so prolific in our correspondence, and visited each other at school, and saw each other on holidays and as much as possible during the summers. And then as adults, even when she made the move Way Down South, I never stopped considering her among my best friends. Because she is. That's the kind of relationship we have where we can go months without talking, but when we do pick up the phone or get the chance to see each other, it's like, BOOM, friendship magic. Yes, all relationships take work and maintenance. But truly this is one of the easiest ones I've ever had in my life. We click, and we take for granted, we take comfort in how we can always count on that.

And now my dear girl is really, really sick. She has been, on and off, for the past five years. It started with a melanoma discovered right before Tanya's wedding, from which she was given a clean bill of health. And then a recurrence. And then another, this one, the scariest yet. And nobody knows for sure what's going to happen. The diagnosis was only made a couple of months ago, and I feel like I've been holding my breath since then. I can only imagine how those closest to her every day life are feeling - her mom, her amazing husband, her best good friends. I haven't seen her in over a year, the time she got to meet Harrison and she was in possibly the best shape of her life. She's been a champ about keeping those who love her posted about what was going on, and her husband's doing it now in her stead. And all I know is that she's extremely not well. And that's all I want to say about it.

I am sad. I am endlessly anxious. And my feeling of impotence, of helplessness is all-encompassing. Helpless because I'm not there, but even if I were to get on a plane and go there to see her, which at this point would be pretty much for my own benefit, there's nothing I can actually do outside of offering all of my love. Of course it's worth something, but it sure won't take away her constant nausea or pack those 30 pounds she didn't have to lose in the first place back on her body. Again, I know this is not about me. But it doesn't change that I am gutted. We are 38 years old. We should be planning our joint 40th birthday extravaganza. And maybe we'll get to, christ I hope we'll get to, but not today. Today we can only focus on today.

Make no mistake: this is not a eulogy. This is keeping you up to date on what's going on in my life, right inside the enchanted sparkle forest I'm always telling you about. A woman I love in the dearest place in my heart is sick. I've been keeping that to myself, and I can't keep it to myself anymore. I am not looking for condolences. I appreciate if you're sorry to hear about it, we're all sorry. And that's all.

If this song seems like a terrible choice to wrap up this entry, then obviously you don't know Niki, the longtime sassy Salt to my wannabe Spinderella (Tanya is Pepa, naturally). Love you, girl.

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