I finally had my ketubah framed. That’s the Jewish wedding contract.
It was the first time I have ever had something framed. It was a bigger deal than I thought it would be. In the frame shop, this little man with round glasses like Harry Potter kept tugging open another drawer full of colorful samples. Every manner of delicately, elegantly aged. It made me want to frame everything, until he told me the prices.
I read the ketubah, since it was lying there on the work table. I forget already what it says. Something about commitment and love, I’m sure.
My eyes went immediately to the signatures on the bottom, and I remembered signing my name, there in the basement of the place where only minutes later I would barely make it down the aisle without tripping over the front of my enormous dress. My name is unbalanced, hesitant. Not because I am hesitant about marriage, but because I have never learned how to properly sign. Bear’s is more graceful. And then the witnesses, his friend, who has since moved to the suburbs to live in a house so big that I can’t keep track of the number of bathrooms, and my closest friend at the time, a woman I met almost the first day I arrived in this city.
She was sitting across the conference table from me at our departmental orientation, wearing a big necklace that she toyed absently with. She was very thin and had read more than everyone else combined, and I was intimidated by her.
For some reason (it might have had something to do with the fact that we were the only women there), we became friends, and then good friends, and then we were together constantly. She would sleep at my apartment after we’d talked into the night. Do you know the kind of friend who there is always more to say to? It’s something about the way they listen. She would tilt her head thoughtfully. She was so smart that she could find meaning in anything. So little topics could be stretched to become big topics and big topics could lie lightly across the top of whole months, years, even.
Her signature at the bottom of my wedding contract is so fine and small that it is almost invisible. It sits directly beneath my unruly, clumsy one. We are bound together here, her and me and Bear and the friend in the suburbs.
In the framing shop, I tried to pull my eyes up from it, because she is gone.
She is gone as though there was a tragic accident.
But there wasn’t.
There is only a mystery that wisps tantalizing coils through my daily mind, fades away to nothing and returns with a sudden vengeance to yank me back into it. “The mystery of the disappearing friend.”
She left my life without saying goodbye. Without an explanation.
I take guesses, and there are enough clues to feed them– one of her parents got sick. She was so busy with that. I offered to help, but she wanted none of it. I don’t know how far that went, but Facebook publishes evidence that she is in the world, that she is talking to other friends, that she is laughing about some comic and headed out to see some show. So there must be more to the story than the parent.
It happened when I moved to Brooklyn, a little over a year ago, that she made her neat exit. To be fair, she was all the way up at the top of Manhattan, and the A train gets slow and weary up there, and no one ever seems to want to fix it.
But really, I can’t figure it out.
This friendship that was and then wasn’t, without a fight or even a noticeable slipping apart. It was a clean, careful severing. Her precision was surgical, as in all things she set her fiercely sharp mind to.
I wrote and wrote and wrote to her. But she never wrote back.
So I don’t know.
I try to tuck her away. To let it go. To remember our long walks in Riverside Park and when we lay on the grass in Bryant Park at midnight with the sycamore trees twining branches against the brilliant lights. I want to remember those things, and I want to let her have her reasons, and imagine that they are good ones, even if I don’t know them. I try to swallow the bitterness.
Here I am, in this new home, and I think moving makes me sentimental, maybe. This shift into a slightly different stage of life makes think of what I’m missing and where I might be going. Every time you go somewhere new, you leave things behind and acquire new things, of course, but there is so much I carry with me, secretly. So much that I’ve folded new relationships and spaces and ideas over, but it is still there. And you can’t really replace a person completely, I don’t think. You can call her a bitch and roll your eyes and shrug and say whatever, whatever, so she didn’t need me any more. Her goddamn loss.
But that’s just strutting and bluffing and wearing heavy boots with your saggy jeans and your wife-beater.
There isn’t space to mourn friends who have decided to leave you. Mourning is reserved for breakups and death. But I think I brought the loss of her friendship with me, at the bottom of the green trunk that sits on the rug I agonized over in the living room. And I will walk by it every day, often without even noticing.
Maybe I’ll never find out what happened, if anything happened at all. Maybe one day she’ll talk to me again, and she’ll explain.
For now, I will find the right wall to hang my ketubah on, and when I look at it, I will read a complicated story about love and commitment. About growing up and making enormous choices. About the way that life moves forward, anyway, no matter what. I will look at Bear’s steady signature, filling his whole line, and I will be so thankful.
* * *
Has someone ever inexplicably left your life? How did you handle it?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look against my new colors and patterns. I took some pictures to show you:
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