Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A small, good thing

A couple days ago I happened to pull out a grad school relic: Where I'm Calling From, a retrospective of short stories by Raymond Carver.

One of the more affecting pieces in the collection concerns a small child on his birthday, hit by a car on the way to school, eventually dying of his injuries.  His parents, numb and grieving, end up harrassed by the baker of their child's birthday cake who, unaware of what has happened, calls the parents repeatedly to demand they pick up the cake and pay him for it.  In the end they head to the baker's store at 3:00 one morning for a confrontation -- only to have him apologize, empathize, and invite them in.
"You probably need to eat something," the baker said. "I hope you'll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this," he said."
I've not forgotten that line since first reading it years ago -- a small, good thing.  That something you didn't know you needed until it was offered, which is when you realized you couldn't have done without it.

So I have been going on the last week because of C-2's unexpected departure.  Overcome by a melancholy in some ways earned yet, I know, belabored beyond its importance.  I didn't know how to be when faced by it so I just got angry.  Angry at losing him.  Angrier, perhaps, to realize I never had him.  Anguished in a way that is perhaps typical of a spurned woman who thinks she meant more to a man than she did.

And then, in a way I couldn't have otherwise fathomed, last night ended up being a small, good thing.

In which I (why? couldn't help myself?) wrote C-2 an e-mail before leaving work to see if he had left town yet.  To which he replied he was still packing and that yes, I should come over and bring bubble wrap for his television.  And how after a long rehearsal and some driving about, I finally got to his apartment with the bubble wrap at 11:56 p.m., just in time to ring in my birthday with a shot of Jameson and a Smithwicks and a couple other friends, all of us sitting on packing boxes. To find out he was planning to start driving away as soon as we filled the truck, so we filled the truck fast.  To see him in his own space, to help haul his bike (he has a bike?!) and chess set and boxspring and GRE prep books and hear about the woman he was headed to be with, and to feel like even after a hundred conversations in the last 2 years, how it was this night, the last night, that I got a far better view of him the person.

It was 3:48 a.m. when we did our last shot of Jameson and shut the truck door.  We 3 women stood on the street.  C-2 came over and hugged his first (and closest) friend, hugged his second friend, then came to me, kissed me on the lips and we hugged, also as friends.  A moment later, standing next to my car, I watched him cruise by on his way to the turnpike and just like that, be gone for good.

And now it's 5:26. I drove home with enough energy to want to sit up and write these thoughts.   I'll sleep only a few hours now but, like after previous rendezvous with C-2, I know I'll wake up at 8, invigorated.

Because, yes, it's my birthday.

Because I remembered why C-2 and I got to be friends in the first place and how that's a shining relief.

Because I never imagined in these last weeks of frustration that I'd be standing there at dawn on Holland Street as his last Boston kiss and his last Boston wave, knowing full well I've got nothing more needing crying about, if I can just keep myself from doing so.


Anonymous said...

@Karin. A nice story, Karin. Thanks, and happy birthday.


klk said...

Happy birthday, Karin. May your birthday gifts today be just as wonderful as the first one of the year!

Yoav Shapira said...

Happy birthday! And thanks for being a great writer.

Anonymous said...

~Happy belated birthday Karin..best wishes to you that this year ahead is your most 'mahvelous' yet!!~