Sweetbest (who thinks her nickname makes her sound like a pastry, but I don’t) comes to visit a few weeks after I’ve moved in to my place.
She and I walk to the coffee shop a half mile away, and we talk about things and stuff. I babble on incessantly about the boymen I’ve been seeing. I show her the pics they send me of their penises, and the text messages we’ve exchanged. We talk about how she is, what’s she’s doing, her life in Europe, things & stuff (I’ll leave it to her to explicate this); I explain how I’ve discovered I want to go to med school, and I want to enter a post baccalaureate- pre med certificate program to pick up the science courses I didn’t take/need in university, how I love math, how I want to do research, not clinical practice. I prattle on, like I do, about how reading med lit is like reading a language I didn’t know I already knew.
“Babe, you’ve got to do this. You’re lit up like a christmas tree.”
Her words are the kiss of a blessing.
She and I wander down Fairfax to make a long loop back to my place. We stop in a thrift store which is dusty and crowded and expensive, and we continue down the street, she puts her hand at my bent elbow. She walks with a kind of ease, sun-kissed and bright, we giggle about the memories of baths together. It’s delightful. There’s only a couch in my apartment and a few things Tomastio gave me: plates and a pair of tumblers, some spoons (the forks I have are plastic). I have cans of things, and G’s can opener, and a $3 corkscrew. In my apartment, she looks at my back room, noting that all the clothes are in piles, organized by when I might wear them.
“So you need hangers?”
“I guess, yeah, I’ll get around to it.”
I’m more concerned about finding a job than whether the doorknobs won’t do for my suitcoat. She has to leave too soon, and it’s hard to say good bye. I hadn’t seen her since January 10th, we had dinner with Uncle Abduction. This was two weeks after Valentines day. Too long. Would it be another six weeks before I saw her? Of all the things of which I might be afraid, I worry most that she’ll forget about me.
But it’s not going to happen. She has memento from our life before. A pot I made poorly in ceramics in grade 11, scribbles I made on the backs of offering envelopes, a sunflower dish for which I likely saved for a month to get her from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Mallorca kind of sunflower plate, I think.) She has castaways and trash and calls them treasure and reliquaries.
Sweetbest hadn’t forgotten me, at any point. She took keepsake of mine with her even when she lived in other countries.
She is a bit like a bird, keeping things about her that make up her nest. The sight of her memoirs is her comfort. And then she wraps her buffalo exchange-found shawl over her shoulders and draws her arms to encircle herself, breathing in through her nose to catch a bit of the jasmine on the air.
I am more serpentine: I shed everything now and then. I get rid of my clothes and my hair, I find myself with nowhere to live. I grow a bit taller. I have seemingly no burden. A backpack and only the clothes that fit in this carpet bag. I have good shoes that will last a while, and we’ll see what happens. The jasmine on the air only heightens my awareness of everything else I can sense.
But we are not in and of ourselves bird and snake. We are more than this. She says she’ll be back at the weekend. She comes back, she really does, and she brings a lamp and a card table, a plastic filing/bin thing, silverware, wine glasses, plates with imagery from France , plates she’s had for ten years, coffee mugs that mean things to her, towels, a heated blanket (!) and the most beautiful comforter cover I’ve ever seen, with a thick down quilt to be covered. She brings me stacks of hangers, she brings me candles galore, a pair of folding chairs. A table cloth and napkins (and napkin rings). She brings me groceries.
And she laments I have no pot in which we can make soup. She tells me three times (maybe more?):
The tupperware is for the soup.
Make the soup in the tupperware.
Use the tupperware, put the soup in that, here’s how I do the soup from these ingredients.
I was so confused by her insistence on the damned tupperware. I nod when she says it, and I agree with words or something when I realize she’s insisting. OK. OK. Tupperware, soup, roger.
She leaves me a book she’s recently read, that she has told me is so beautiful and it seems so parallel to me starting over here. It is late at night, that same night, when I pick up the book, because I can’t sleep and I don’t feel like anything else.
It’s Patti Smith’s Just Kids. The memoir she wrote of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I devour the first hundred pages.
But I at page 42 I cry. I cry the long distance between Sweetbest and me. I cry the too many years since I’ve had her in my life. I cry for not knowing when I get to be near her again.
“I worked long hours at Brentano’s and skipped lunches. I befriended another employee, named Frances Finley. She was delightfully eccentric and discreet. Discerning my plight, she would leave me Tupperware containers of homemade soup on the table of the employee cloakroom. This small gesture fortified me and sealed a lasting friendship.”
(Smith, Just Kids p.42)
I don’t want to give away the rest of what I know of the story, but it is totally Sweetbest to assign herself a role in the corps de ballet when she’s the Prima Ballerina.
We are to each other, really Mapplethorpe and Smith.
I txt her immediately.
“I got to the page with the soup. You are the sunset.”
I send this the next day:
“She has a song that says, ‘I don’t fuck much with the past but I fuck plenty with the future.’ Let’s do it, Babe. Let’s fuck plenty with the future.”
And I am confident this will be the case.