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Best Friend


ISSUE:  Winter 1990
I.

The night afterward, I dream about you, so very
pleasant. You’re much smaller, just a head and
torso, long ribbon arms and legs, and I’m carrying
you where you need to go. We talk in our usual way,
and everything’s so very nice. I carry you into a
large shop. It’s where people go to get worked on,
reassembled. There are bodies all around in various
states of decay and repair, and there are people
doing the repairing. It’s crowded. A woman greets
you at the door, saying, “You died of a tumor in your
neck.” You say, “No, I have leukemia.” I let it slip
because you’re so very funny, and we both laugh.
It’s good to laugh again. The woman motions us in.
I work my way through the people then, bodies and
body parts everywhere, and I find a table with some
space, and I set you down. At the other end, a
worker is reattaching teeth to a jaw. We wait
patiently. He then reattaches the jaw to a skull.
When he turns the skull around, inspecting it from
all sides, I notice it has real eyes, and they roll
around to look at me, the way you did before you
died, unable to move your head, that tumor in your
neck. I’m a little bothered because I know what the
look means. Indeed, this woman hanging from the
ceiling kicks me. Her legs are cold and hard and
festering. You say, “Eeeuh, eeeuh,” in your usual
way, and we laugh again. But this time I tell you.
“You’re dead,” I say, “You died.” “It’s OK,” I say,
“there’s nothing to fear here.” The woman kicks me
in the back again, and I say, “It’s time. I have to
go.” You grab onto my hand, but I tell you again
that you have died, and I cannot stay. We say
goodbye then, greatly, and I am happy, able to rest
at last. Then when I wake, I try to sleep a little
longer, so very happy you’ll be all right.

II.

We go out to dinner, not me and you, she and I, this
new person I met, someone who doesn’t know you, and
hasn’t heard you’ve died. Things go well. We stay
at the restaurant, talking through three cups of
coffee after dinner, and the conversation is kept
going several more hours at my house, she sitting on
the sofa, and me lying down on the floor, both of us
comfortable, that warm, familiar feeling coming over
me, and I think I can tell her anything, so very comfortable.
But then it happens. I remember you, us,
our last good conversation together about a month
before you died, when it was still possible to be
comfortable, that awful word. And I’m an awful person,
making a new friend, and I tell her about you
then, awfully, singing your praises and recounting
the horrors of your awful death, withdrawing as
quickly as possible. I turn away then, toward the
fireplace, and she asks did I love you. I say, “I
always wanted to marry you,” and I begin crying, so
very confused, wanting her yet wanting to be alone.
I tell her then I have a messed up mind, you know,
very depressed. She leaves then, saying, “It’s
late.” Later that night I dream about you. We talk
and laugh as usual, and it’s so very wonderful I
could die. But then it’s morning, and you say you
have to leave, that you have died. I grab onto your
hand, and you say I have to let you go. Then you
dissolve into the air of my living room. But it’s
not as sad as I expect, for that familiar feeling
lingers. Just before I wake, you call back to me,
“She will call again.” And when I wake, she does.

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