As I fast approach my Biblical threescore years and ten, I have no particularly sad feeling about entering my seventies or worrying about mortality. I certainly have much left undone and much to do, so I’m just planning on increasing my pace. After all, we’ll all be gone too soon, as Mehitabel the alley cat with a sense of adventure in her morals used to tell Archie the poet, now reincarnated as a cockroach who could only type in lower case, in the old Don Marquis stories,
“i know that i am bound
for a journey down the sound
in the midst of a refuse mound
but wotthehell wotthehell
oh i should worry and fret
death and i will coquette
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai”
Although I perhaps have a droll sense of whimsy about this life and what may come in the next, I admit that I’m put a bit on pause when a friend or someone I’ve known in an earlier incarnation dies. It’s as though I’m at a theater or watching a show on TV and the main character is suddenly and unexpectedly hooked off the stage without explanation and before what should be the last act. There’s no feeling emptier than a departure with no word of farewell. I’ve lost a few buds and beauts this year and I confess to shedding more than a tear or two at their departure a bit early for their taste, I’m sure, as well as for mine.
As the summer is just beginning and well before it has even gotten into a running lather, I got the news recently that a lady who had once held my heart in her hand back in junior and senior high school days had gone on to find love elsewhere. Her death plunged me into a past where I was an awkward adolescent and she was the proverbial belle of the ball. Our lives had diverted so many years ago but I still heard about her, but never from her. She was my mystery woman in a life privileged to have included some fine companions known for their wit, beauty and concupiscence. One can hardly go wrong with that trio of charms.
My first recollection was that she had stranded me once when I thought I was included in her fast car. I was left to find my own way home after she sped off from a concert with two other guys in my high school class, all comfy in a car that didn’t even belong to her. She was about nine or so months older than all of us, but still in our class. In our eyes, she was a “woman” who could always talk any of us out of our loose change. One quirk I remember so well was her habit of looking back over her shoulder when driving to talk to those in the back seat, a somewhat dangerous trait but that’s the way she lived her life. When she would catch my eye in the rear of the car, it was as though Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys was sitting atop that big black piano staring right at me and singing Making Whoopee. Knees, stop shaking after all these years.
In the poem “Night In The Mountains,” the poet Heather Allen writes
“…all things exchange their light
My friend is gone now, felled by illness and a surgeon’s misplaced move. I have moved back and forth in time over the past few days trying to remember who she was and who she became over all these years…and who I have been. Try as I do, I’m still not able to touch her. Right now, it’s just too soon. As another friend is wont to say, such grasping is like trying to grab pollen in a net. I only hope she was somewhat aware of the sway she held over the boys in her life who would have been only so quick to lose everything, including their immortal souls, for a moment of her company.
As our lives slowly wind down, I do not have to be told that we all go our separate ways to death. Theory is long in the rearview mirror. At a certain age, we all have stared into too many open graves to think we’re going to skip away without tarnish. So as I say good-bye to this wisp in my memories, I want to remember her laugh, her carefree manner, how she thumped a young adolescent male’s heart. I want her to turn around from the driver’s seat and throw me a wink.
I smile knowing she probably lived an unconventional life on her own terms, a life that might sound strange to some but was so extravagant and full of joy and mischief that she forever broke the monotony of a decorous age.
Vaya con Dios, Mehitabel.