It happens every day. Every second, actually. Someone is breathing one moment, then not the next. It’s nature’s way: we’re born, we die. But my mind refuses this. No, she can’t be gone, not that kind of gone. Not dead.
The word landed with a leaden thud, flat black, that sucked all the air out of the room. But I need that word. My child’s mind refuses to understand. Dead. Gone.
Monday I got a strange email from a friend-of-a-friend:
“Has anyone heard from F-?”
I called F’s cel, and got a wrong number. Idiot, I told myself, and dialed again. This time, a strange and business like voice answered, and asked me who I was.
“Who are YOU?” I demanded, confused.
“This is [name forgotten], County Sheriff’s department. Are you a relative?”
This was the moment when the chill of dread descended, when I knew something was terribly wrong. Why would cops be answering F’s phone in the middle of the day? It’s not like her to have been arrested, unless it’s finally illegal to be a snarky blogger in Florida.
Nice Sheriff Lady realized she had to tell me now, because, pretty much, I already knew.
“I’m sorry to tell you that F has passed away.”
The room went all echoey. She asked me if I knew any next of kin. Sorry. I was busy falling backwards through a tunnel, remembering last week when I called F on a whim.
“Hey you. Not interrupting a hockey game, am I?”
“You know you aren’t, or I wouldn’t have picked up.” I hear her short breath, sucking that damn cigarette, or maybe just gasping for air.
“I’m just calling with the neighborhood gossip report, and to let you know not to worry about the weather. You should really stop watching the news, you know. Bad for your blood pressure.”
“Well, you never know.” There’s that breath again.
“How’s the Bench?” We can always talk cats.
“He’s fine, but no more catnip for him. He bites me when he gets a buzz.”
I laugh, but now I’m the worrier. The last cat bite was serious.
“Please, Ferne, explain it to him again: you don’t bite the hand that feeds you!”
It was a silly conversation; like Seinfeld, about nothing. We were hanging out over the cellular ether. I want to grab those minutes back, and hold them.
I’ve been looking for photos of her, so far no luck. The last time I saw her was two years ago when I was in St. Pete. We wandered on the beach, went to the movies, ate thai food and hung out with her writer friends. I can still see her, in her Yankees cap and capris, an ageless platinum pixie with a cigarette and a smirk.
Bon Voyage, Ferne. Love ya, and don’t forget to write.
Ferne Horner, artist, writer, blogger at the Hairball Gazette 1945-2015