Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The memorial service is this afternoon

We're planning to get there early -- 45 minutes or an hour early -- because we assume it will be mobbed. This morning I need to get myself showered, make sure the clothes I'm planning to wear are clean (a project that was interrupted last night when dinner refused to stay down), iron Darren's suit pants and pick up a veggie platter for the party after the service. (Yes, party -- Darcy was very clear that this be a celebration, not a wake. She even specified which of our friends is to bartend, and what drinks he will be making: cosmopolitans and dirty martinis.)

Yesterday was my day to make dinner for her family. Her partner moved to Maine from Colorado, and he loves spicy southwestern food. So I made this fantastic Cook's Illustrated recipe for chicken enchiladas... forgetting, of course, that because it's a Cook's recipe it has eleventy-three thousand steps and literally took me three hours to make. By the end, I was covered in the spicy red sauce, my hair was greasy from standing over the stove and the kitchen looked like it'd been hit by a whirlwind. It was so nice, though, to leave all the mess behind, to pack up the food in nice, neat containers and bring it to their house, where all they'd have to do is throw it in the oven for 20 minutes. Darcy's family looked exhausted; they haven't had a moment of down time, and that on top of all the emotion has really drained them. So I'm sure in some way they are ready for today to be over.

I have to admit, in some ways I am looking forward to the service. I think we all really need the opportunity to say goodbye together. And while I know it's going to be difficult emotionally, it's a part of the process that we need to experience.


I am lucky enough that Darcy is only the second friend of mine to die. The first was Mark, a guy I went to high school with, who died from an incredibly aggressive melanoma when I was 25. The situation with Mark was complicated, though, by the fact that I was not that close to him, and that there were things about him I really didn't like. We were part of a large group of high schools friends, and of a smaller group of 5 or 6 of those friends who hung out a lot during summers and other breaks during college. He and I had very strong mutual friendships, but our own relationship was on the outer edges of that circle.

Still, he drove the 350 miles to see the first play in which I acted in college. (Yes, he nearly got me kicked out of school with his decision to get high in the fancy on-campus hotel, but that's another story entirely...) And I drove down to the Atlantic City area, where he went to school, for parties whenever I was home. We spent a lot of time one summer sitting on the edge of Paul's pool, drinking 40-ouncers of malt liquor (ugh), kicking our feet in the water and talking. So we were friends.

But Mark was bossy and socially awkward and could be a boor when he'd had to much to drink... which, for several summers, for all of us, was quite often. I never felt entirely comfortable with him -- in high school, because we competed, and because his sarcasm was withering, and later because of all the sketchy behavior he'd pulled with me and other female friends.

When he got sick, though, I tried, with varying degrees of success and an awful lot of guilt, to be there for him. My recollection is that it was less than a year -- maybe 6 or 9 months? -- between the news of his diagnosis and his death. So Paul and I drove down to visit him at school, to see the play he'd created as he sat beside us, wheezing because of what the cancer was doing to his lungs. Later, when he'd moved in with his mom and stepdad, I picked him up and took him to the movies to see that John Cusack movie about the hit man who goes to his 10th high school reunion. I vividly remember Mark hoisting himself up out of his seat in the middle of the movie to pull the medication he needed out of his pocket. Within a few weeks, Mark could no longer leave the house.

Soon after that, just a month or so before I moved to Boston to go to grad school, Mark died. He never made it to his reunion. After his funeral, we got raging drunk. I flirted with the best friend of my high school boyfriend (and later tearfully, drunkenly, confessed to Darren over the phone). I cried in the bar. And then Paul and I walked down to the beach and ran into the ocean.
I wrote an essay about all this in grad school; I puzzled over how to write about the loss of someone with whom I'd had such a conflicted relationship. I wrote and re-wrote. In every version, that essay ended with me and Paul standing in the Atlantic, having silently agreed not to jump over or dive through the waves, but to just stand there and let them crash on our heads.


We will not be running into the ocean today. Even if we did, the waves in this part of Maine are not strong and tall like those in New Jersey, and the feeling of being pounded by them, the physical feeling, would not be the same. I, for one, will not be getting blind drunk, nor flirting with anyone from high school. In the absence of those options, and in observance of the death of a friend with whom my relationship was much less conflicted, I am not sure what I will do. There will be tears, many tears -- for Darcy, and for the prospect of us without her. Beyond that, I do not know.