Helen Lundeberg, Double Portrait of the Artist in Time
Hello. It has been a while since I posted, but of course there are reasons why. Work is insane. My beloved cat died. My mind has been elsewhere. It’s all been too much. But I don’t let this document turn to digital dust, and I certainly won’t stop writing, even if it’s a dash of words a day.
I have these scraps of stories I write and don’t finish. They just never take off and I leave them as drafts in a fat folder. Today I revisited one and wondered how it would work as a very quick, abrupt piece of flash fiction. And while I work on a longer piece, I’m posting this scrappy experiment.
We’ve been meeting for lunch for four years. We never call each other best friends, but you’d assume so if you pulled up a third chair and joined us. We sometimes talk over each other, yes, but we are also very good at listening. In high school you were known for being a particularly good listener. You wouldn’t just nod and furrow your brow and try to turn the conversation back to yourself – you were generous and attentive and made everyone feel like their opinions were important. At least, that’s what I heard from all your old friends. We didn’t meet that way. We met during the spring of our sophomore year, when we’d already worn a groove of routine and thought we’d made the all the friends we would need until graduation. We just happened to have three classes together on that sprawling campus. It wasn’t romance, not the experimental love of drunk sorority sisters. It was a mutual attraction that went beyond our bodies, though you were so beautiful and I was as pretty as I’d ever get. There was no discussion or question or adjustment. Our lives joined the same stream – two salmon traveling from river to ocean.
At our monthly lunch I made you order all the things I was too squeamish to try. All my life I’ve been the devil on my friends’ shoulders – goading them into doing things I was too shy or chicken shit to do. I’m a picky eater who has dreams of street carts in Thailand where crickets are fried and served kebab-style. In those dreams I eat many of them and crave more, but settle for licking the greasy paper they were wrapped in. So you agreed to foie gras on the condition that I order more wine.
I used the last of this week’s waitress wages to treat you to lunch, but it was worth it to see you and hear you talk about your boss and the newspaper and how print was dead but you hadn’t received the memo. We drank the house Chardonnay until we were sick, and then you told me you were moving away.