My friend, she the lovely one–rake thin and blonde–waits inside the art gallery, at the top of the stairs, chatting with the curator. They stop when I get to the top. ”I feel like an escapee.”
They laugh, and the curator excuses himself.
“Monique*,” I say.
“Kathleen,” says she, reaching out her arms.
We hug, then stand back to size each other up. It’s been a few years since we made time for each other. Since we really looked at each other. Her face looks different. Older. Thinner. And sadder, somehow. I never expected that.
I wonder what she sees when she looks at me. The same, perhaps.
Gusts of time and circumstance swirl bitterly among kith and kin sometimes. Contrary winds too easily make strangers of friends. My last few years have not dealt kindly with some of my once-dear friendships.
I will not have that. I will not give in. I have begun beckoning back those I have most missed; first in my prayers, then using words. Come, please. We have rich gifts unopened. Treasures too long stored. Do you still have room?
They’ve begun to arrive, alighting like tentative butterflies on the petals of my soul. We are older. We are not necessarily wiser. And we are more tired. But we are still lovely together.
Monique and I wander through the gallery. I am stunned by the gems conceived in her own soul, hanging now for the world to see. Her chapbook, which features her exquisite India ink sketches and God's words, has blessed me to hell and back these last years. I tell her so. But you published it, she says, surprised. But we both know I played mere midwife.
We amble down the road for cold iced tea on the porch of the vintage coffee house. We steep in each other's presence for almost two hours, and find it sweet.
God is good. But life is hard–and far too short to watch friends drift away without trying to hold them just once more.
One at a time, I will unfurl my petals. Alight, butterflies, alight.
*not her actual name