It’s early October. The ER doctor asks,
“After your husband, who do you want to make the big decisions for you, if something goes wrong?”
“Her,” I answer, nodding toward Mari.
She doesn’t flinch. But after fifteen years of knowing Mari, I can read her stillness the way a sailor reads the moon. She’s thinking, “Um, for reals? Are you sure?”
In the last couple of years, Mari and I have spent more time together in hospitals than outside of them, which is why I was so happy to be out in The City last night, under a gorgeously full moon, celebrating her “twice-the-legal-drinking-age” birthday.
Just outside the window of the restaurant where we sat nestled in a corner table, chilly dark SF streets slanted up away from us. Phantoms of the two of us from years ago still traipse up and down those North Beach hills, I’m sure. They laugh about a waiter known only as, “The Pahck-ahhjj.” They sit for hours in the North End Caffe. They eat at Cafe Trieste and drink at Specs. They re-tell stories, glorifying and embellishing. Okay, that’s mostly me.
“Yes, it was at Tosca’s. We were there and we saw John Stewart, drunk, leaning on his girlfriend…” I brag.
“No it wasn’t,” Mari remembers more honestly, ” it was Rob Schneider at the Steps of Rome Cafe.”
“Oh yeah,” I admit. But I still like to blow the stories out of proportion. There’s no other way to capture the feeling of those now-illusory events.
Last night, we huddled around Mari, bonfire of joie de vivre that she is, and feted her as she deserved to be. As always, I felt it wasn’t enough, could never be enough.
It’s early 2009.
“How do they look?” Mari asks me. She’s modeling hospital-issue pajamas, sneaked to her by the charge nurse who, within moments of meeting Mari, fell in love with her.
“They look big,” I say. I’m laughing, even though this hospital visit is a tough one. Dennis had finally agreed to go home and be with Little J, only because Mari could be there with me.
“They’re huge!” Mari laughs, pulling the hospital pj’s up to her chest. I’m laughing so hard I can’t breathe because she’s now Ed Grimly with the over-sized pants.
Last night, after the birthday dinner, we all stood shivering on the edge of Washington Square Park. I kissed Mari goodbye on the cheek. I could see she’d had a good birthday, and I wished I could have given her more: a year of birthdays strung together like pearls, an apartment in Paris above a creperie, mauve roses and stacks of the best books she has not yet read, days and days to write and laugh and travel with friends. James Franco.
All of this would still not be enough. And not just because she’s been there for me through the happiest and unhappiest days and nights of my life. And not just because she helped me manage my dress in the powder room on my wedding day. But because she shows me how to laugh and to live with joy, to see the world for how ridiculously funny it is, especially when it is trying so hard not to be. For reals.
Forkab, Wamster P. Vinigh
Love you, Mari