Yesterday was seventy degrees and sunny, so we met friends at the park, where we ate beignets in the arms of oaks that never lose their leaves. Afterward, I could have written, but instead, I took a nap. We ended up at another friend’s house—someone who, if you’d told me twenty years ago I’d be slurping gumbo she made on the deck her husband built at their home in the Seventh Ward as the three children between us ran around trees heavy with kumquats, I’d have been skeptical. I can’t believe she ended up with someone who’d shove reindeer antlers in the windows of the Honda we used to hotbox. Maybe she can’t, either. It’s funny, how there are people, like you, with whom I’ve felt that lightning strike of connection, while others’ orbits overlap my own until, eventually, they’re rounded up to friends. Once, I preferred the former; now, I’m not convinced such a strike is ever mutual. It can’t feel the same for the cloud, dazzling the sky with self-generated charisma, as it does for the tree: its singed limb sliced clean, a jagged scar gutting through its bark, the smoke from burning needles lingering long after the electricity’s gone.
This morning, I attended a funeral. It’s okay, she was old, some guy joked, once, about someone else, before I understood I can only be friends with men if they’re funny, but men who are funny aren’t always great friends. This sitch felt not at all okay: my mother’s cousin, total babe in the 60s, endured thrice-weekly dialysis for years to be described with vague platitudes for sparsely filled pews and a closed casket. When we hit our golden years, can I rely on you to call in to my ceremony and say something negative? Please, spare the praise for my maternal warmth or generosity of spirit; make me sound like a human. Tell them that, as I glanced around during this Mass, I concluded I was the hottest person in the church, if you didn’t count the terrifically ripped guy on the crucifix. Tell them how my writing about you is like that botched fresco of Him. Tell them your version of what went down, how I clung to that raft like a crazy bitch, then kicked it adrift into the sea. Tell them about <gestures broadly> all of this. We must create our own closure is something else that was said, not by the priest, or that other guy who thought himself so clever, but someone I found in the Explore tab on Instagram whose bio was boundaries expert. Her latest post bragged about how online therapists are the new poets, but I didn’t bookmark that one.
Colleen Rothman lives in New Orleans with her husband, son, and an extensive collection of diner mugs. Learn more at colleenrothman.com.