This week felt fractured and unproductive. My days were dotted with spontaneous bouts of tears that I tolerated and did my best to mop up without ruining my eyeliner.
Last night, on my way out of the office, the sunset was the best winter usually has to offer: streaks of tangerine, lemon, and bright tomato dissolving into lilac and mauve clouds against a blue-gray sky. I walked west, my favorite route, to take in the crisp air and feast on those colors.
Near Pier A, on my way to the waterfront, I passed a woman the spitting image of a friend, K, who died in 2009, down to the color and twist of her dreds. I must have done an obvious and obnoxious double-take because she looked at me like “who the fuck are you?”
I kept walking, thinking of my friend. Stopping at a point overlooking the harbor, I thought of the last time I saw her, of afternoons sitting behind her with scissors, snipping tiny black rubber bands out of her twists, careful not to cut her hair, of Sunday evenings playing Catchphrase. I thought of the ways I learned to conduct myself as a woman in this city, and in the world, watching her and knowing the kind of friend and family member she was.
Words are inadequate to capture everything she continues to mean to me, but the sky last night came close. It was the kind of visit you never know you need until it arrives.
“Wonder” by Emeli Sandé beat on repeat through my headphones. K would’ve loved Emeli, I think. I walked on, remembering, smiling, laughing, and crying, letting everything wash over me. Every few feet, I stopped to watch the sky and see the colors blend and bleed, until they all eventually faded into indigo.
I texted K’s niece and mentioned I’d run into her aunt’s dopplegänger. On elaborating, “Sorry, I’m having one million feelings today,” she asked if I wanted to grab a drink in our neighborhood.
“Yes. I’m about to get on the 2.”
Four stops later, I texted her back. “So I got on a train to BK. I’m back in Manhattan, but just barely. Will let you know when I’m in Queens.”
“You need a drink don’t you. First one’s on me.”
Over beer and fried food, we yelled and hollered about men. We validated each other’s experiences. I remembered how much I love her and her family. Although her brother and I broke up in 2007, they have continued to treat me as though no time or space has passed between us. At her aunt’s funeral in 2009, a family friend filled me in on a conversation she’d had with K after the breakup. K was angry with me, understandably, because her nephew was hurting by my own hand. Her friend reminded her that he and I weren’t a very good match — K’d said so herself, a handful of times. The friend said she should side with me, woman-to-woman.
If I’d known that, if I’d known K wouldn’t greet me with the aloofness for which she was infamous, I would’ve called her much sooner.
But, coulda woulda shoulda. I’ll carry that with me forever. It reminds me to love ferociously those who love me, to let neither space nor time dictate my loyalties. Above all, though, she reminds me to love myself first and best, and that is a message I need every single day.