It’s raining right now, hard. We just had to drive in it to get home. Jeff is in the garage with a cigar in the dark, standing there, watching the pellets. I am thinking.
We spent the evening at a Celebration of Life and benefit for a friend whose husband died in April. He had a massive heart attack in February and never left the hospital. He was 42, and the benefit was for his wife and son.
His wife, Emma, was one of the first people I remember from my town. When I interviewed for the job that brought me to the Hoosier state, I remember her. I remember thinking, “If I get this job, this is the seat I will have, which is right next to this woman, who seems fun and funny and welcoming. I want this job for many reasons, and one of them is that, I want to be Emma’s friend.”
We worked together for about four years, and it was as fun of a work environment as a person can have. Oh, the shit we did. There was the piñata candy that was impossible to identify, so we tried each one, including something that looked sort of like a rat turd. There was that “America’s Next Top Model” blog we wrote because a local woman was on the show. As part of it, we filed talking Barbie dolls. At the beginning of one year, we had our auras and palms read — plus we tried a Ouiji board and some tarot cards — to see what the spirits said the new year held in store for us. Once, we took off our shoes and socks and wrote our names with a pen held between our toes, just to see who had better foot penmanship. (OK, that had nothing to do with work, but those first three seriously were related to something we did for our jobs.)
The Tuesday before the first Valentine’s Day I lived there, we went to lunch. She asked what my Valentine’s Day plans were, and I burst into tears, because my long distance boyfriend had broken up with me the day before. As I cried like an ass in the middle of the restaurant, she proceeded to regale me with tales of her exes.
Throughout this time, the inevitable happened: We became friends.
Her husband seemed to be her polar opposite. (Seemed is the operative word: She’s an extrovert, and he was an introvert, but their tastes and interests were right on.) I met my husband at her birthday party, one where she put on a Bea Arthur-style one-woman show. Her husband stood in the back, watching her and grinning. When she dances, it looks as though she is being lightly electrocuted. I don’t think he danced much, though he was involved in our local electronic music scene. He loved to read and make art, and he was on the board for the Cinema Center, a group that supported indy-type films in town.
It was the friends he had through these endeavors who threw the benefit. There was a silent auction and 50/50 raffle, and a slide show of images of Jeff (not my husband Jeff — my friend’s husband was a Jeff, too) through the years — as a tow-headed 3-year-old, as a boy in a family portrait, as a teenager with an unfortunate bowl hair cut, with his wife on their wedding day, holding his teeny newborn son, suspended on a hammock with his little, lovely three-person family.
After the extra people left, some of the close friends remained. One woman asked me, “Do you feel guilty sometimes? For having it so good?”
I don’t, truly. Yes, I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop for the past year or so, but I don’t feel guilty for my happiness. I’ve had my sadness, though nothing to compare with losing a husband. But I don’t feel like one sadness should make another less-than. We all go through different experiences, and something worse on the scale of sad should not diminish what someone else is going through.
It’s still raining outside. My Jeff just came in from the garage. We left the benefit early, because it was 12:30 a.m., and I was tired. Jeff pulled the car up to the curb of he bar for me because of the weather.
I am a lucky woman. I have a lot of love in my life. I hope I always appreciate it.