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  • A friend called me late tonight. Called me twice actually. OK - let's be honest, three friends called me tonight - two of them twice. They say 'things' run in threes and it was one of those nights that proved it.

    I could have - perhaps should have - not answered the phone. Damn the caller ID screen. Damn that I looked. Damn knowing who calls and knowing who you're ignoring and knowing it could be something but not knowing what.

    Damn people knowing that I'm in Pismo and as far as they're concerned I'm not working. Working at home be it writing or other business seems to many folks like not working and always available. Damn them knowing that often when I'm able I'm a night owl.

    Damn that I'm a nice person - or at least feel obligated to act as if I am one. Though lately it's gotten more and more difficult to keep up the charade. Perhaps it's age, or impatience with what being nice often doesn't get me: the experience I want.

    Damn that I've made a habit of not having the experience that I want because... why? Because what other people want is more important? Not really - but it's a habit in any case.

    So the phone rang while I was contemplating why I haven't done a bunch of things and it was Merl. We were lovers four years ago when we were both 50. We thought we'd marry, but... I decided I didn't want to. At least not to him.

    After all the pain of our parting seeped away, we became friends. It took several years. So he often calls me now to complain about his relationship to a woman who oddly reminds us both of my long on/off relationship with someone else. I was with Larry before and after Merl. Merl never did understand the dynamic of being with someone who was a near miss - and there he was and has been in the middle of the same sickening story.

    He once told me that he figured that if he stuck around long enough in our friendship, he'd be the last one standing and would be back in my life as a lover and partner - even as he stays in his own near miss relationship nightmare. It ain't gonna happen for us, but telling him that doesn't stop him from calling me.

    In the middle of our conversation Moppet called on my other phone.

    I clicked off with Merl - he understood the girlfriend emergency bit.

    Moppet had been fired from her job. Which, in a way, was no surprise. She'd taken a menial counter job at a local health food/fast food place not far from her new apartment. The position was well under her past career history, but she thought it would be fun to just do a 'dumb job' to get back into the work force.

    She was newly out of a pricy rehab program and cleaned up (her third such program) from the stuff that the other two programs didn't get. She'd been on a lot of prescription stuff from several doctors. What some doctors do to people is criminal.

    The pressure of the damn dumb job elevated her anxiety and trying to learn a new computer system under the watchful eye of hungry customers hadn't helped.

    While we talked about how the job wasn't really up to her needs or capabilities - the truth finally came pouring out. Minus all the anti-anxiety meds, the tranquilizing meds, the unnecessary pain meds, that had helped her quell her anxiety in the past... she'd taken to bringing a flask of alcohol to work. Oh boy. She'd put it in the company refer next to her water and juice and someone had told management.

    This is my dear dear friend. A woman I've known for 16 years. Hearing her talk, knowing she is... she really is an alcoholic, an addictive personality, a person in real real trouble with herself... my sweet dear friend who was helped along this road by many many doctors... I was just heartbroken.

    Damn doctors. Damn drugs. Damn pain.

    And at the same time, there is nothing I can do. Nothing. I can do to save her. I cannot save her.

    Damn truth. Damn it.

    She went to the log cabin today she said. For the first time she 'shared'. She told what happened to her job and her life.

    She sat in her car on the phone, slightly slurring her words, going on and off topic, the pain of her circumstance bitter in the back of my throat. I know her family history, her reasons, her potential, her triumphs, her great beauty, her heart.

    She cried as she talked about disappointing her family... and me. She couldn't tell them the truth, She couldn't stand up to their criticism. She hadn't planned to tell me.

    As we spoke, I received another damn call. This one from Larry. Larry is far older than I. Our history is too complicated and questionable to go into. We've fallen into being friends again. Moppet knows him.

    He'd had his third prostate cancer biopsy that day. I was sure he was calling to tell me about it. He lives alone in a big house in Mill Valley. He has few friends these days.

    Moppet understood that I needed (needed?) to take the call. We'd both been affected by the death of someone else from prostate cancer.

    Larry spoke slow and low. Almost as drugged sounding as Moppet. They hadn't drugged him though. It was out patient as were the other two times. Painful and blood letting. Uncomfortable and invasive.

    When he was first diagnosed, Larry decided to do what is called watchful waiting rather than surgery or drugs. His type of cancer is the type that generally stays localized. He said he wouldn't do surgery that might leave him impotent (never mind that he very nearly was anyway) or incontinent and wearing a diaper (he hadn't reached that stage).

    He said he'd be more likely to die with it rather than from it. He gets his blood tested every six months to a year. If the tests show elevation - they do a biopsy to see what is happening. So far - it's been manageable.

    We've joked that if there are many more biopsies, he won't have a prostate to worry about.

    We spoke several days ago about the upcoming test and I asked him who would drive him home. He said he'd get somebody.

    When I asked him today - he said he drove himself. Damn.

    Damn old age and isolation. Damn the end of things - relationships and friendships and other ships passing in the night.

    Damn that I wasn't there to drive him.

    Damn that I was the only person who would.

    Damn that three people called me tonight and that I feel drained and alone with no one to listen to me but you.
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