Friday, December 19, 2008
Cookie Day 2008
My friend Marianne invited me to her home for Cookie Day 2008. Sure, sure, I’ll go. Christmas cheer, whether I like it or not.
Marianne was one of my sweetest classmates in high school. Always friendly, always trying, always smart, always pretty. But I was always partying, always cool, always disconnected and didn’t foster our friendship. Over the years, I realized my coolness is vastly overrated and I’m happy to be in her company once again. I sat there, watching her bake dozens of cookies in her kitchen and smiled, now able to really appreciate her.
I almost left Cookie Day 2008 at first. Too many kids, too much commotion, too many strangers. But because of my often-solitary lifestyle, I felt like it was time to try a little. Bit by bit, my armor fell down. I jumped in, started helping with the cookies, kids crawling all over me. It feels quite nice to be out of your element sometimes.
As the day progressed and we were on our millionth cookie, we broke out some wine and turned off the holiday music that was beginning to drive us all mad. We replaced it with, of all things, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I attempted to teach the kids a few key lyrics and we danced about the place. Long Live Cookie Day 2008!
My phone rang in my back pocket and I saw it was Richard, my ex-boyfriend from a few years ago, when I lived in New York City. We just started talking again this year – not to reconcile, but to reconnect, as friends.
How does one describe Richard? He’s larger than life. A crazy, wild cowboy of a man – tall, dark hair, piercing blue eyes. He’s extremely hedonistic and if he lived in ancient times, he’d undoubtedly be a practicing Bacchanalian. But amidst the New York City posing and ultra-coolness, I found Richard to be a breath of fresh air. Unapologetic, fun loving, genuine. A real rebel.
He owns a beautiful wine store in Manhattan, which is where we met, at a wine tasting. I learned that night that he used to be a Navy Seal. He was also in the Secret Service. He’s an expert marksman and sports a scar on his temple where he was grazed by a bullet during his time in Grenada. He’s a dangerous man, in his own right.
You’d never know it, though. He’s comes across as a big, sweet Southern guy who just loves having a good time. Too good of a time. He could never handle me emotionally. He can’t handle himself emotionally. He never invited me into his life the way I wanted. He protected his bachelor lifestyle like a pit bull and I tire of men who have commitment issues when I’m not even asking for one.
I couldn’t talk to Richard for a long while. Too many hard feelings. But with the passing of a good female friend this year, I wanted to reconnect with him and let go, move on. And he was happy to. He loves my company and loves me.
So why was Richard calling on Cookie Day 2008?
Undoubtedly to try to hook up with me again, I’m guessing.
“Which is not going to happen, Richard.”
“I’m just calling to say hi. See how you’re doing.”
“I’m fine. I’m making cookies at a party.”
“Good. You need to be out more. You need to have more fun.”
“Said by a true professional.”
We chatted about this and that but cookies were baking and it was time to get back to some Floyd and wine.
“You go back to your friends, Beth. You have fun tonite.”
“What’s the matter Richard?”
“Ah…nothing. Nothing. They just…forget it.”
“They just what?!”
My blood started running cold. Something was wrong.
“They found cancer. I have malignant cancer. It’s in my lungs.”
The floor started slipping from underneath me. I ran to the bathroom and shut the door.
“Stop it. Stop it, Richard. Stop your lying!”
Richard is also a professional liar. He lies without knowing he lies, he lies so much. It’s taking me years to not take it personally. To realize he never means harm by it. He just wants to avoid trouble, pain and anger - anything negative. Thing is, I’m a professional lie detector and I always felt the sting of his untruth.
“Please tell me you’re lying!” I screamed. Suddenly I heard the party get quiet. I brought my voice down.
“Please, Richard,” I whispered.
“Sweetie, I wish I could tell you I was. I’d lie to get in your pants and since you’re not here, it would be a worthless lie.”
Perhaps the most honest thing I’ve ever heard Richard say.
“They think it’s from the pancreas. They don’t know. I’ll get the scan results back tomorrow.”
“That’s a bad cancer, Richard. A really bad cancer.”
“If it is, I have 2 years with treatment and 9 months without…I’m not doing any treatment. I don’t want my little boy to see me like that.”
Richard has a little boy from a previous relationship. He’s 5 years old.
The pain I began experiencing was incredible. All the times I’ve wanted to kill Richard, all the times I thought I wouldn’t care if a Mack truck plowed him down…and suddenly I couldn’t get close enough to him, I couldn’t reach out enough. Funny how quickly that anger just melts and your left with unadulterated love.
“God, no. No. No. No.” I started sobbing uncontrollably.
The party got quieter again. I huddled next to the toilet, shaking.
“It’s been a good run. I got to meet you. You’ve always been such an angel to me. The first time I saw you, I said, ‘She’s a real, live angel.’ Did you know that? Did you know I’ve always thought that about you? You always seem so good, so pure.”
“Stop. Stop Richard!”
He was drunk, waxing nostalgic. It was too painful to hear.
“Do you remember the night of the dare?”
Richard and I sat in his wine cellar underneath his store one evening. It was one of our favorite places to hang out. Grand, gothic wine cellar; giant mahogany table, monster-sized leather chairs, candles burning, jazz playing. A real hedonist’s dream.
He dared me to go upstairs naked and ask his employee for the best Cab in the house. I disrobed, walked upstairs and asked for it, as casually as I could. The poor gay man was shocked. Luckily for me, no one else was in the store. I grabbed the $350 Cab, ran to the basement and Richard and I drank it, laughing for hours. It was one of the best nights I had in NYC. It was definitely one of the best bottles of wine I’ve ever had. You see, shocking Richard is next to impossible. The man has seen literally seen it all. And I achieved it.
“That was a great night.” I said.
“Hey, does this mean we can have sex again?” Richard asked, out of left field for anyone, except him.
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Even with the whole death…”
“Richard. I’m scared.”
“Go back to your party, Beth. Go have fun. You don’t have enough fun. You’re too sad.”
“I don’t want you to go,” I sobbed.
“Maybe it won’t be so bad.”
“Yes, lets get results back first okay?”
“Yes, results,” he said quietly.
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Okay…oh and remember this, Beth: the stars we could reach were just starfish on the beach.”
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?”
As I finished asking the question, I knew. He was quoting from an awful 70’s song, “Seasons in the Sun.”
“Funny,” Richard said, “that song keeps playing over and over in my mind.”
“For that, I am truly sorry.”
We both started laughing. Then crying.
A moment of silence.
“How do you feel, Richard
“I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s...alright.”
“This is anything but alright. But okay, I figured I’d ask anyway. I knew you wouldn’t really answer me.”
I hung up the phone and opened the door. Marianne was standing there, flour on her chin, looking very concerned. I explained to her what happened and soon afterwards, left for a welcome drive home. Dark roads through the woods. Freedom. My mind, trying, trying to clear. Thoughts of the speed of life.
When I got home, I saw that Richard had sent me a text:
“I’m scared out of my mind.”
I am too, my friend.