Meredith sat back down at her desk and picked up her pen.
I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve sat alone in this apartment with only the television to keep me company. Tonight, I came home believing it would be another one of those too quiet evenings but I’ve already had several interruptions. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve read everything there is to read, traveled everywhere there is to travel, seen everything there is to see, and yet something is missing.
Listen, when it comes to the obituary…just list Marina as my surviving sister….leave the rest of them out of it completely. If they couldn’t be close to me in life…they don’t need to be recognized in death. Do whatever you want about a memorial service. You know I have never understood why people care what happens after their death. It is truly the height of self centeredness to try and control things after you’re dead.
The house phone? Carlos must have forgotten something.
“Thanks for letting me use the house phone, Carlos” Eleanor said. Eleanor knew Meredith wouldn’t ignore the house phone. She needed to get through to her and she was fairly certain tomorrow might be too late.
She noticed that Meredith had become more and more withdrawn and quiet lately. She knew Meredith was saddened that her love life had never gelled but she was such a fabulous friend to so many. Meredith had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember. She had changed Eleanor’s life for the better the first day they met. It was freshman year and Eleanor blushed just thinking about what a techie dork she’d been back then. Lost and confused on her first day of classes Meredith had helped her find English Lit and then later helped her understand English Lit.
Since then they’d been through everything together from childbirth to planning Eleanor’s mother’s funeral. She couldn’t imagine her life without Meredith in it.
“Carlos, did you forget something?” Meredith asked as she picked up the phone.
“It’s me, Mer.”
“El, what are you doing?”
“I’m downstairs, can I come up?”
“Well…um…yeah… of course…come on up.”
As Eleanor got in the elevator she found herself thinking back to that day at the campus coffee shop when Meredith decided she’d had enough of Eleanor and Jimmy smiling shyly across the room at each other and got up and invited him to their table. After that day, it was the three of them against the world. They got through everything together: finals, Jimmy’s parents’ divorce, graduation and the search for what to do next. They’d been through a lot and Meredith was still the only one who could make Jimmy smile when he was in his lowest funk.
Eleanor knocked on Meredith’s door.
“Hey, Meredith, sorry to just pop in but it’s an emergency. They just hung Jimmy’s last painting at the new gallery and he’s a wreck. I got him settled down and left him at Louis’ with a drink. Can you please come out and work your magic on him?”
“’Well El, I had planned to get a lot of writing done tonight.”
“Come on, Meredith, you know you’re the only one he’ll listen to.”
“Okay, okay, let me get my wrap”
As they stepped out on to West 86th Street Meredith took a deep breath and took in the streets of New York in early fall. She’d always loved this neighborhood with its wonderful, bustling, busy, streets.
As they walked toward Columbus Avenue to make their way to Louis’, Eleanor linked her arm through Meredith’s and spoke. “Do you want to tell me what’s got you so down lately.”
“I’m fine, Eleanor, really.”
“No, you’re not fine. I’ve known you for 30 years and loved you for every day of it. Do you really think I don’t know you well enough to know when the world has you down? You’re an amazing woman, Meredith, and a woman I can’t imagine not having in my life. You give so many people so much of yourself. You normally take on the world with an energy that’s frightening to behold. You’ve been withdrawn and quiet for weeks. You haven’t stopped in to see us at home or at Louis’. Something is terribly wrong. If you don’t want to tell me about it, that’s fine, but I’m not letting you out of my site until you can ensure me everything’s okay.“
She looked over at Meredith and saw the tears quietly streaming down her face. She stopped and wiped them off and hugged Meredith close to her for several long seconds before opening the door to Louis’. They stepped into Louis’ Place and he greeted them with open arms, planting a kiss of each of Meredith’s cheeks as was his custom.
“My favorite customer returns! I haven’t seen you for weeks and Jimmy tells me you haven’t been yourself. I am fixing you something very special tonight of my own creation. It will make your taste buds burst with joy and make you happy to be alive. Sit…sit… Marie! Bring my guests some fresh, hot bread.”
Jimmy smiled up at her. “It’s an intervention. What did you expect? We love you Babe. Sit and sink your teeth into these delicious crusty calories. If my gorgeous face and Louis’ food and hospitality can’t make you feel better then there really is no hope.”
Meredith smiled in spite of herself and sat down between Jimmy and Eleanor.
“Pass the butter,” she said as she grabbed a hot crusty roll out of the bread basket. “This is no evening to worry about saturated fats. I love you two, do you know that? Thank you so much for watching out for me. Quite a few of my friends have checked in this evening. It’s hard to believe with so many who obviously love me I was feeling isolated and alone. ”
“You never have to be alone as long as El and I are still kicking, you know that Mer.” Louis chose that moment to sit a platter featuring a scrumptious, roasted Poulet de Bresse on the table. There was a group “Mmmmmm……” as they began to dig in and share one of the simplest joys in life.
Meredith let herself in to her apartment and dropped her wrap on the chair by the door. She looked over at the clock on the mantel to see it was close to 2am. They had sat at Louis’ for hours, just like the old days, talking, laughing and simply enjoying the closeness the three of them shared.
She walked over to her desk and looked down at the letter she’d been working on when El had called. She sighed, picked it up and ripped it in half once and then again and tossed it into her waste basket followed by the pill bottle.
Tomorrow was another day. Who knew what changes would come with it or what difference the next 24 hours might make? As long as there are people who love you, and there are tomorrows, the exploration never ends.