Wouldn’t you appreciate an essay unrelated to the horror of climate catastrophe, Afghanistan and ending a never-ending war that never should have been waged, the Afghans who are casualties of US empire, a global pandemic, a governor who says Biden should follow his Covid protocol (no masks but Regeneron clinics for those with severe Covid—DeSantis must have huge investments in Roche), a president who doesn’t take questions after stumbling through a teleprompter-guided update, a former president who claims presidential powers despite his defeat, etc.?
Here goes: I look through my address book. Not the techie one but a worn-out book that’s traveled with me for years. A book that’s been packed for move after move. A book that has names of family, friends, and acquaintances whose locations and phone numbers have been marked out multiple times, new locations added. Someone who died.
A couple of times when I was in D.C. for an extended peace event, I stayed with her. We’d met in college where her father sought me out, another Kentuckian who could relate to her, who talked like her, the KY twang. Later, after we graduated from that two-year college, we, along with my sister Laura, roomed together for a while, attending a state university. She married one of her professors, later divorced him, married a handsome actor and moved to D.C.
This just in: Twelve US servicemembers killed in Kabul. I am swept back to the morning Laura called to tell me our nephew Chase had been killed, not in Afghanistan but in Iraq. Calling because my brother Mark couldn’t, was too distraught. And my saying over and over and over, “Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no.” Twelve families who thought Afghanistan was over will be saying “oh, no, oh, no, oh no,” soon. Many more have just read this news and are hoping it’s not their child, not their loved one. And feeling guilty because it’s someone else’s.
Back to my Kentucky friend and roommate. Her drama teacher told me she had more natural ability than any student he’d ever taught.
Wherever we lived, we kept in touch. One call in 2015. “Darling, I have leukemia, but I’m going to be fine. I have to be fine.” She said this with such dramatic flair, I pictured a scene in a movie. A few months later, she sent a photo in an email. No longer beautiful, she appeared skeletal, nearly bald, and told me she’d had radiation to her brain. Just weeks after this, she called. She called to say goodbye without saying goodbye. I called her number many times in the next few weeks. No answer. And one day, my phone rang. S’s name and number appeared.
“Thank god,” I said into the phone. No hello to preface that. Just “thank god.” I could hear a slight gasp, a hesitation.
“Missy, this is D, S died.” Her sister D had S’s phone. Had seen the many calls from me.
I couldn’t imagine a world without S. I pictured her, the captivating essence, exuberance. I’d once told her she’d be the perfect fortune teller, one wearing flowing, diaphanous robes, bangle bracelets adorning each arm, all the way up to her elbows, earrings dangling, brushing her shoulders with each tilt of her head.
I am at an age when more and more friends and former acquaintances in my address book are unreachable.
I don’t need a fortune teller to predict the future.
Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: email@example.com.