I pull out of our cul-de-sac and onto the main road, slowing as I cut the corner. The street light further down is gleaming red against the late evening sky, so I set my foot on the brakes and my eyes on the four tall window panes in my living room that faces the street. There, in the second pane to the left, is my family. Unlike the others, the shutters to this window have been rolled up, so I see them fully. Framed by the four sides of the rectangular glass are my husband, my mother-in-law, and my baby girl. All three are waving at me. Danith is standing in the background, while his mother perches on her knees and holds up Nora’s arm and hand. I imagine her reviewing with Nora what to say, “Momma, be back soon.” I roll down my window and wave back at them, but all of the waving, really, is for Nora, who, just a few minutes earlier, was pulling my fingers and insisting that I sit in her coveted chair and not leave her.
I am on my way to meet friends for a Mexican dinner. I decided to don myself in a loose navy and white striped dress, brown boots, and a jean jacket. It is not my first night out since Nora’s arrival. In fact, I’ve been going out almost regularly since her arrival. Dinners. Lunches. Drinks. Writer’s group. Book group. I have been going out more frequently now than I have ever had in my life. My heart is full, not because I am about to see friends, but because I cannot believe that this is my life now. Nora has been with us for nineteen months, but each day still feels surreal. To me, it still feels surreal.
I want to share this moment with someone. I want to talk about the evening, how it is on the cusp of nighttime, how the gray will roll into black anytime now, maybe even in the next second, and how the normally busy road is quiet, so that I am allowed this opportunity to sit in my car and drink in my daughter waving at me. And then my heart sinks. I have no one to tell any of this to. Surely, I could try to explain it to my friends tonight at the restaurant, but, really, would they understand? How do I explain my life at one dinner setting? Some of them know about Daffy and Kiri — and all of them know about Nora — but would they truly understand more than the ten words I would hastily speak about this moment?
I miss my friend. I wouldn’t have had to say much to her for her to understand. That was often the case for us. Sometimes, we didn’t exchange words — just a quick lock of our eyes — and we understood. “They just stood there. Waving,” I would have told her. And her smile would have expanded across her face. She laughed with her mouth opened, she cried with her mouth closed, and she smiled most deeply with her lips touching and stretched wide almost to her ears. Then she would take in a deep breath and nod, her upper body rising and falling, pulling me in, reassuring me. There was no need for me to explain. Someone other than myself knows. This is my life now. I have the family that I had dreamed about as a child. And I have a living daughter. A living daughter! Who wants me. Who needs me. I am protected from the cold. I am not scared of the night. After two hours of sharing conversations with friends, I will return home to all of them, my permanence. They will be waiting for me. This is my life now, and I am not scared.
Twelve years of friendship have ended. Twelve years of being each other’s safety net. Of giggling like seven-year-olds. Of sharing secret dreams. And fears. Of being each other’s guard. Of falling in character. Of rising as women. Of three parents dying. Of two dogs dying. Of two babies dying. Of two babies thriving. Of firecrackers on the day after the Fourth of July. Of Grace on Thanksgiving. Of sisterhood. Of promises of wrinkles and gray hair. Of unspoken trust. Of watching her daughter blossoming. All of it ended. They came to a close with no fair understanding of why.
The death of a friendship is a quiet cry. There is no passed life to mourn over. No day to commemorate with a trip to the river. No monetary donation made to a cause. But there is grief. It sits dormant until a moment like this — when life is bursting with gratitude and simplistic comfort — is a reminder that there is nothing, not like that one, to share it with. So, the heart pinches, the eyes tear up, and the internal dialogue begins. And you speak to that passed friendship like you would to your passed children: Nora is here, and I wish you were, too.