Added: Roderic Tarr - Date: 16.11.2021 01:43 - Views: 45026 - Clicks: 6822
I love watching her vanity prick up, the way she serenely tilts her small white head and refurbishes her Southern accent to correct them. At this point, folks usually smile tightly and turn away, perhaps worried there is more than friendship going on between the old lady and the younger man seated at the bar or strolling through the supermarket, giggling like teenagers.
Often our mirth seems fueled by some deep-celled delight at being together. Friendship, like its flashier cousin, love, can be wildly chemical and, like love, can happen in an instant. When I met Austin, I was in my early 40s and not looking for a friend. I had come alone to this small Oregon town to finish a book. So when a bony, blue-eyed stranger knocked on my door, introducing herself as the lady from across the way and wondering if I might like to come over and see her garden — maybe have a gin and tonic — I politely declined.
Watching her walk away, though, in her velvet slip-ons and wrinkled blouse, I felt a strange pang, a slow pin of sadness that I suppose could Artist seeking friendship possibly more be described as loneliness. Suddenly I was dashing into the dirt road to say that I was sorry, that she had caught me in the middle of work, but that, yes, I would enjoy seeing her garden.
Shall we say ? I had to admire her sense of time. Next week is for someone who can afford to put things off. Austin, in her 80s, surely felt no such luxury.
As she poured the gin, I told her I had seen her at the mailbox, as well, and liked her face, too. Her garden was astounding, like something dreamed rather than planted, a mad-hatter gothic in which a lawless grace prevailed. At dusk, the deer arrived, nibbling the crab apple blossoms. We had been talking for hours, slightly tipsy, and then we were in the kitchen cooking dinner. A retired psychologist, Austin had traveled extensively, spoke terrible Spanish and worse French, and was a painter now.
She had had two husbands, the second of whom died in this house, in a small bed in the living room. We turned to the windows, but the light was already gone. That we could be Artist seeking friendship possibly more together so soon, and without strain, felt auspicious. From the beginning, there was something about our interaction that reminded me of friendships from childhood, in which no question was off limits.
On religion, she claimed to be an atheist. I admitted to being haunted by the ghosts of a Roman Catholic upbringing. She said her sisters believed in hell and worried about her soul. Austin, though, seemed afraid of nothing, least of all death.
I said I was still afraid of the dark. I laughed but changed the subject, telling her I would like to see her paintings. Later, crossing the road back to my Craigslist sublet, I wondered what I was doing. I reminded myself of my plan: hiding out, staying in the dream of the book. After years of work on a single project, I was in the final stretch. I could finish a draft in a few months and head back home.
Besides, if I wanted a friend during my retreat, I would find someone my age to throw back beers with. Gin and tonics with an old lady in her garden? But there I was the next weekend having dinner with her, and then it was every weekend. Sometimes we went out to a restaurant or hiked in the mountains. When I first started talking about Austin to my own out-of-town friends, they assumed I had found a new boyfriend. What was perplexing, I suppose, was not that two people of such different ages had become friends, but that we had essentially become best friends.
Others regarded our devotion as either strange or quaint, like one of those unlikely animal friendships: a monkey and a pigeon, perhaps. Admittedly, when I would spot us in a mirror, I saw how peculiar we were. This vivacious white-haired imp in her bright colors and chunk-style jewelry sitting with the dark-haired man in his drab earth-tone sweaters and Clark Kent glasses.
We were mostly looking at each other. One night, Austin chatted about her life as a middle-aged wife in academia. Often we cooked together, as we had that first night, after which she would show me whatever painting she was working on. At her request, I also started reading to her from my book-in-progress. We gave each other feedback; our work improved.
When my six-month Artist seeking friendship possibly more was up, I renewed it. Before I knew it, three years had passed. I was writing seven days a week and spending most evenings with Austin. Sometimes she had spells of vertigo now, and when we walked together she held my arm. Soon the headaches came, and more jumbled language. Now she is eight months into what the doctors say is a quick-ravaging illness deep in her brain. They say there is no stopping it. Even as I refuse to believe this, I prepare for it. A few months before her diagnosis, Austin had attended a wedding.
She showed me a copy of the vows, which had been distributed at the ceremony — a detailed list. We were sitting in a car, waiting for our favorite Thai restaurant to open. Everything but the sex. That night, I had an odd realization: Some of the greatest romances of my life have been friendships. And these friendships have been, in many ways, more mysterious than erotic love: more subtle, less selfish, more attuned to kindness.
Of course, Austin was going to die long before I did. This, I have come to understand, is a love story. Austin continued to paint for several months more, fractured, psychedelic self-portraits in scorching colors. Her best work. Lately, though, she is tired and hardly leaves the couch. I sit with her, at the opposite end, our legs intertwined. When I tell her the book is finished, she tells me to read her something new.
But whenever I do, she promptly falls asleep. I stare out the window. Austin was right.
This room does get the best light. She looks like some punk girl I might have dated in high school. Peaches and Connecticut. Have you ever had it? I loved the idea of it. Monkeys and pigeons. Unlikely, yes — but delicious beyond measure. See nytimes. I told her I had missed out, too. We laughed, then sobered. Tests were scheduled. By keeping my promise to her.Artist seeking friendship possibly more
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Making Good Friends