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The Ballad of Pickle

April 25, 2013

Forward: This is a long one. Take your time and read it. I don’t want to get any “like” notices until you’ve read the whole thing. (all 2,000 words baby!) Print it out. Take it with you to lunch. Yeah, I’m talking to you. After you read it, like it and give me a comment. This one’s for Pickle. She deserves your attention.  Thanks ~Kitten.

“I’m having a hard time,” she wrote to me in an e-mail. “Today would have been our 13th anniversary.”

I saw her words and immediately felt empathy for the pain she was feeling. The unique sadness that comes from seeing someone you love, hurting. The desire to parent and nurture and do what you couldn’t do even when your own kids were hurting: take it all away. Yet, I felt honored that she knows she can share this with me and get what she needs. Understanding. An attempt at countering the negative thoughts. Patience.

When my kids had stomach aches, I used to try to psyche them out. I would hold them on my lap with their bellies pressed against mine and tell them to push their stomach aches into my belly and I would take it and feel it for them. I would say some magic words and pretend that my stomach hurt. Then I would ask them if theirs still hurt. Sometimes it would seem to work for a minute. But of course it didn’t. I couldn’t magically take their pain away when they were toddlers. I couldn’t take it away when they felt the inevitable pain of being a teenager or the pain and disappointment of the realities of adulthood.

I can’t take Pickle’s pain away either. All I can do is listen, put my arm around her, let her cry and kiss her head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We reconnected at the Blue Moon over a year ago. I kept looking at her, thinking I knew her from somewhere. I was in a bad place. I didn’t know anyone in Lafayette anymore. I was overweight. I had just left my husband and found my way back to Lafayette via a tiny room at a friend’s house. I was tentatively creeping my way into Lafayette social life, the insecurity written across my forehead. I was uncomfortable in my own skin.

She came up to me at the bar. “Hi. I’m Liz,” she said cheerfully and confidently, looking up at me from her not-quite-five feet. We traced our acquaintance back to USL architecture, late 80s. “I just moved back to Lafayette and I’m getting a divorce,” I said with mock enthusiasm.

“My husband left me for one of his students,” she matched my sarcasm. We both laughed.

We’ve been joined at the hip ever since.

I was so impressed with her when I first met her. She’s a practicing designer. She’s strong and sociable. She opened up a new world of Lafayette life to me. She taught me to cajun dance. We went to dance halls and dives and live performances. We met up with another old friend from architecture and started the Splat Pack. Soon Lapin was hanging out with us too.

She reminds me of the things I said to her in those early days and how much I’ve changed.

“I’ve never been able to exercise regularly. I just can’t find anything that I like to do.”

“I can’t cajun dance like that. It’s too complicated. I can’t figure it out.”

“I don’t think I could ever have sex with someone I’m not in love with.” lol

I’ve broken through all of those barriers, in no small part because of my friendship with Pickle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve watched her walk onto a social scene, carrying a vivacious energy around her. Her short little body and giant boobs. That tiny but powerful voice and easy, bright smile. She goes into a crowd and runs her hand through her thin, light brown hair and just walks up to people. She knows everybody. She looks up at them, forcing them to make eye contact, sometimes clasping their hands and she talks and laughs with them. She rocks her body back and throws up a hand and lets out a laugh, her tiny voice struggling to match the energy of her joy.

I was envious of this ability of hers. I can be sociable at times, but it’s too often peppered with inappropriate sarcasm and a weird attitude. When I’m not sociable, I’m shy and quiet with a mean look on my face. The wall of inapproachableness goes up. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it.  But never with Pickle. It’s easy to be social and happy with Pickle around.

And then there are the times she falls apart. I learn from her strength even when she’s on the floor of my apartment crying. There’s a wisdom to the way she falls apart. She allows the pieces of herself to smash and tumble. She looks at them, analyzes the breaks, picks them up and binds herself back, stronger than before. She doesn’t take you down when she falls. She shows you how to fall and carries you with her when she stands up again. Before you know it, you’re both standing taller and stronger.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Once we were at lunch and she was talking about her niece, a troubled teen with little stability. Pickle has taken on the role of mother at times, nurturing her, providing a constant she can count on. We talked for hours then walked back to work. She suddenly stopped on the sidewalk, put her head in her hands, doubled over and started crying.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I let her tell me I couldn’t be a mother,” she cried out, sobbing. “My mother. My husband. They told me I couldn’t do it. I CAN be a good mother. Why did I let them tell me that?!” she lamented. I put my arm around her and looked at her. This amazing, nurturing, giving, strong force of a woman. How could anyone convince her that she shouldn’t mother a child. It makes me angry when she reveals these things to me. But that’s why we’re getting through this together. We’ve lived another life. A life that included false truths. We let people convince us of these things. No more. If it means falling down, crying on the sidewalk on Convent Street or laying down in the clover at Girard Park. We’re going to exorcise those lies and come out of the other side of darkness, shining brighter than ever. Because we’re standing next to each other affirming the fallacy of their lies. We know the truth. And because we are together, there’s always one person to remind the other when we forget.

“Of course, you’re going to be a great mother,” I told her. “If I can manage it without killing the little bastards, surely you can!”

She laughed. Since then she’s taken concrete steps towards the goal of having a baby.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now that Pickle lives close by, Lapin and I often go to her house for dinner and we hang out like a little three’s company, dysfunctional family. One evening she was going to cook dinner for us but she was running late. I went to the grocery store before going over and texted her, asking if she needed anything. “Yes.” she replied and gave me a short list. We arrived about the same time. I unloaded the groceries and started chopping things for a salad while she settled in. Lapin showed up late and most of the salad was gone. “Are you hungry?” I asked. “There’s some turkey patties and more salad stuff.” For a second I was about to offer to make something for him. The need to nurture, to take care of someone just a little, overtook me. Then I remembered what happened when I did that for my kids. They got used to it. I looked over at Lapin and thought, “I’m not spoiling this little mother fucker.”

“Well, the stuff’s in the kitchen. Go in there and fix yourself something.” I said. Pickle laughed at me.

After dinner I washed the dishes. I have a habit using more dishes than necessary when I prepare food. So, I thought the least I could do was wash the pile in the sink.

The next day Pickle e-mailed me the following message: Subject: “I needed that.”

I just needed you to show up with groceries, make dinner, talk to me, laugh with me, do the dishes and go home.
Didn’t know I needed that until you were gone.
I think I said thank you, but I want to know I said it.

Thank you for taking care of me.
I really appreciate it.
Pickle.

Only a friend like her would send a thank you message after hosting dinner for friends at her house. Only she would know that in thanking me for what I supposedly did for her, she made me feel needed, useful, worthy. And we all need to feel those things every day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About a week or so ago I was flirting with two different guys on my phone when I walked into her house, phone at my face and announced, “I’m going to drink your beer and flirt with boys.” Lapin had summoned me over to her house for a weeknight Splat Pack dinner. Pickle had her guitar in her hand. “OK.” she said. As I stared at my phone, clumsily typing away she said, “I have a song I want to sing for you but it might make you cry.”

“Ugh!” I said, “I don’t want to cry. I almost came over here crying to you but I figured it out. That’s why I’m texting with boys.”

“Ok,” she said. “Well, I’ll start playing it and you can tell me if you want me to stop.”

I nodded, my eyes still peeled on the tiny screen.

“Where have you been? My long, lost friend? It’s good to see you again…..” she began to sing.

I looked up at her in disbelief. I started to cry. I put the phone down. I stared at her in shock. She was singing the song that makes me think of my mom. She had learned the Alison Kraus song, “Stay” just so she could sing it for me. She learned the song just for me! I put my head in my hands and made no attempt to keep the tears from coming. I sobbed in my hands as she finished out the lyrics.

“There is a way to make you stay.
Darlin don’t turn away.
Don’t doubt your heart
and keep us apart
I’m right where you are…………………Stay.”

I wiped the tears from my eyes, got up and gave her a long hug. “I can’t believe you learned that song for me,” I told her.

I made excuses to the boys on my phone and put it aside.  We talked about my mom for a while and how much I missed her.

Then Lapin came over. I wiped my eyes and went right back to the texting, which by then had narrowed down to one interesting conversation. Lapin teased me as I continued to converse, a smirk on my face and the occasional laugh escaping my mouth as I ignored the conversation going on in the room. I made an announcement when digits were requested and then got up triumphantly when I was asked to dinner.

“We got a dinner date here, people!” I exclaimed as I held up my phone like a gold medal and got high fives around the room.

I had started the afternoon crying in the park and ended it with dinner plans for the following night. Not bad.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Duck. Dodge. Weave. Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it!

We came up with that one, one night at Pamplona’s. Pickle had been telling me about some difficulty. I had listened, suggested and bounced ideas back. I told her I didn’t think I had helped much. It’s enough to just be there, she had told me. We go through this shit, we tell each other everything, we bounce it around, we build our dioramas, we analyze like crazy people and we get through it. Ducking the blows, dodging the hurt and weaving through the obstacles that are part of  being two, recently divorced (and therefore recently broken) women figuring out how to recover, survive and thrive in these second lives.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know I would not be where I am right now, if not for her. She saved me. She supports me. She inspires me. I can tell her everything and see who I am reflected in her strength and wisdom. We are carrying each other, shaping each other and amazed by each other.

We are wise enough to know that it’s not always going to be like this. If we are successful, if we thrive and grow the way we should, we’re not going to be dancing at the Blue Moon every weekend and having drinks at Pamplona’s. We’re not going to be answering the last minute call of Lapin on a Sunday afternoon to go dancing at Whiskey River or meeting at Pickle’s for dinner on a weeknight.

If we grow and change the way we should we’re going to be meeting up somewhere after weeks of scheduling and laugh about the good old days and lament that it’s a shame we never see each other anymore.

For now, I’ll take the little family we have. Especially the mother hen, Pickle. My friend, my sister, my hero, my teacher.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DUCK! DODGE! WEAVE! Mother fuckers!

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From → Rantings

5 Comments
  1. I promise I have read it all 😉

    Pickle is amazing – I wish I could have a friend like that. Or rather, I wish I could still believe in friendship enough to have a friend like that.

    • Kitten permalink

      She is amazing and friendship like that does exist. I started reading your blog and I’d like to share some things with you. May I suggest you read “Depression, Go Fuck Yourself” I may try to e-mail you later with more thoughts. Thanks for reading my post and commenting. I appreciate it.

  2. Thanks for coaxing me in. It was inspiring and worth the full read.

    • Kitten permalink

      Thank you for being coaxed. I think I’m going to preface all my posts with something like that from now on. : )

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