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                           YPO- YOU PICKED ORANGE CHAPTER 9.2

    “THE NIGHT OF THE DAY OF THE STROKE or SSK LOSES HER BEST FRIEND”

I got home from the hospital that night, (again a trip I vaguely recall) because my wonderful neighbor Kitty, had my keys, the keypad number on my garage, and had driven our car to the hospital; she'd come into the ICU, to tell me she'd parked the car in the parking structure, where it was, then gave me a genuinely warm and caring embrace, and said 'If you need anything, anything at all, please just tell me and I will get it done.”

This was the woman who had found K's sister: all I had given Kitty about her was that she, Martha,  worked at the local huge college,  her name, and gosh &  b'garn, Kitty found Martha's assistant, who immediately interrupted the meeting Martha was in, to tell her what was happening and she came to the hospital. Y'all know I was a dribbling, spastic moron sitting in the ER waiting cell, so I was actually happy to see her when she arrived. (Then: she opened her mouth. Ucch.)

But, Kitty had come through for me. I've thanked her a thousand times, but one more couldn't possibly hurt:

“Thanks again, Kitty, the woman with four sons who are like the Flying Wallendas but on bicycles, you rock.” (Later, a few days at most, Kitty asked me again what she could do to help me, and I said, and not expecting it to happen, “Well, my kitchen could use a cleaning” and two weeks later I came home to find Kitty and another neighbor: Cleaning my kitchen. They cleaned the hell out of it.

And they RE-GROUTED MY TILE. They re-grouted the tile. Who does that?? They chipped out the bad, nasty, mold-filled old grout, and re-grouted. I remain, more than five years later, stunned and thankful for such kindness. Jinkies, right??)

Then night fell. Normally, before the Stroke, I was used to coming into the den, where K was, to watch the latest edition of Bill Maher or “Third Rock From the Sun”, whatever was on. And, I came in to drink. Heavily. By nine o'clock I was usually hammered (Gin and tonic, the Drink of Useless Writers Who Use 'I have a hangover' as a pathetic excuse Not to Write'). More about the drinking later.

Leaving Kimit at the hospital was like ripping my soul in half, but a teeny part, a wee teeny itty bitty teensy, okay not that small, part of me was relieved that I could expect to have a minor respite from the terror.

I was wrong.

The house felt cold, and strange. It was dark and it was scary and strange. Kimit wasn't there.

I flipped on some lights, and headed for the kitchen. I set out dry food for our cat, Echo. I made food for the two birds we had, a cockatiel named Marco, and a lovebird named Sophie. I set their food on tray. Then I turned to the more... important reason I was in the kitchen:

To fill my ice bucket and grab a clean glass, for the, you know, drinking part of the evening. I brought the ice bucket and the bird food downstairs. I set the tray on my side table, and took the birds food to their cages.

I sat on the couch, and looked at the the side table, where the gin and tonic lived. I filled the glass with ice, and poured mostly gin into it. I added a drop of tonic.

Then, like a bolt from That Blue Place, I said to myself, “If I don't touch that drink, if I stay sober and I don't pick up that drink and down  it in one, if I can do that, if I DO NOT touch that gin and tonic, K will still be alive tomorrow morning.” I didn't even look at the drink. This was a promise to myself and to all of the Naiads and Goddesses and Whoever is responsible for drunken idiots like me, and their desperate, craven vows..

I was purely numb, and at the same time, shuckin' and jivin' like a junkie with no junk. So, I  called my best friend, who also lived in L.A. I will call her Narcissa, again for reasons of non-sewage (yes, you read that right: sewage and yes, 'Narcissa” from the “Harry Potter” books: I was also an HP junkie).

Narcissa answered, and I began to spill out, from nearly every orifice I owned. I talked, and I cried and I blew my nose. I explained what happened, and I cried. I told her how completely petrified I was, and I cried.

I told her that I was totally, absolutely alone. I had no one. Kitty was amazing, it is true, but not in the way I needed: I needed someone who knew me, had known me for over 23 years. I was alone in a town where I knew no one, and, as I said, I could get lost walking to my mailbox.

I asked her to fly out, to be with me, only for a few days. For her to see Kimit. To hug me, like  Kitty did, but with more years of knowing me, of being my Best Friend.

I didn't say all that; what I actually said, putting all of the need and want I felt, all of the things I've listed above, was, “Please, can you come?”

And she said “No.”

I didn't think I heard her correctly. “What?” I asked, through lips that were dull, and dry, and cracking from lack of hydration all day: if I drank water, ten minutes later it all came back out, as tears.

She said, “I can't come out, you know, the boy (her son, with the second husband, was 12) is at that stage where he really needs me, I have to be here for him,  he's got some, you know, stuff and I can't leave, you know how it is, if you leave them they think you're never coming back and he's just so sensitive and I really need to be here to help him with things. You know.”

I didn't “know”.  And yes, I was this close to saying “Oh, Eddie will be okay”. Her son's name is AJ.

I did something then that I don't think I have ever done with anyone, ever: I begged. I begged her to come, to come and help me, and hold me and tell me everything was going to be all right.

“Please? Please,  please, can you come?”

“Sorry, but I can't. But you'll be okay, I'm sure.”

You get the fact that I wanted to strike out, to hit her upside the head with a frozen haddock, I wanted to scream and cry and kick my feet and fall to the floor and have a shrieking, glass-shattering tantrum?

But, I didn't do that, either. (There were an awful lot of things I was thinking I wanted to say or do on that horrible day; fortunately, I got around to actually doing some of them. Later. One of them was destined for the following night, but your patience will, I hope, be rewarded.)

I just said to Narcissa, “Oh. Okay. I'll talk to you tomorrow.” And hung up. (I was on my cell phone, so I actually “flipped closed” but that's not as satisfying as “hung up”.)

I sat on the sofa. I looked at the gin and tonic. I watched the condensation dance down the side of the glass, onto the napkin below.

And that's when the ton weight, right out of a Chuck Jones cartoon, came smashing down on me. The entire day, and now, my best friend, a woman I had known for over 23 years, had shared secrets with, had had lunch with once a week, who laughed at my jokes or my way of telling a story, whom I had been there for her many crises and she for mine...

My best friend was not going to come. She said 'No”. I needed her more than anyone else on earth, aside from K. I needed her.

But she said “No.” So, I sat on the sofa, turned on the TV, had absolutely no idea what was going on on the TV, and cried. I think I cried until 3 a.m.

But, before that, another miracle happened. A wonderful little cat, who we had adopted from the local shelter the year before, hopped up onto my lap. She put her front paws up on my chest, and her face not two inches from mine. She looked my face over, her gorgeous yellow eyes perusing my visage. And she began to lick up the tears. She was gentle, so gentle. I closed my eyes and let her continue; when she was done, she curled up in my lap, her eyes on me, and she began purring. She began to tell me, "I am here. I will hold  you and hug you and love you. You saved me, now it's my turn." My beautiful Echo came through on that promise. Big time.

My beautiful Orange Echo.

And I didn't touch that G&T. I got up at 5 a.m. I drove back to the hospital, parked and walked into to the ICU and to his cubicle: and there he was, beeping and booping and 'pa-dinging” and “Bink!”ing.

My love was alive. Chas v'chalilah, my love was alive.

And, let me add one more Chas v'chalilah.

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