This past Sunday, I went to my neighbor's 80th birthday party. To celebrate, they'd taken over the park behind our houses here on the street where I live, and these folks did it up true cajun style--mounds of steaming crawfish, a sea of icechests filled with beer, the obligatory cajun music and a spirited game of drunken volleyball.
I don't even know why I went--I actually spent most of the day hiding inside, granting refuge to the computer addicted teens who tend to find their way to my "techno-friendly" home. But the spirit of the day got to me--even I, "Morticia" decided to brave the bright of day, thinking "eighty years deserves a nod".
So I donned my jeans, and an embroidered shirt, my "rosy-reds" (a beloved pair of round red sunglasses) and walked my tired ole hippy ass down there to wish this very spry eighty year old woman a "Happy Birthday." I was surprised to find her inside, donning her own pair of round sunglasses--recent laser treatment on her eyes for macular degeneration dictated that she enjoy her festivities from behind her curtains.
She didn't see me walk in, of course, but recognized my voice, and yanno? It was so nice to hear someone was delighted to see me--even if they couldn't see me.
"Karen! Come here--I want you to meet somebody!"
Smile. It was the first of many introductions I'll never remember.
After I made the rounds inside, I strolled out back to the park, where I was immediately given an icy long necked beer, and offered a cardboard tray full of crawfish. I told him, "maybe later" but walked off to find my friend, grateful for the cold beer.
She was playing volleyball in a tube top, her stripper-sized tits proudly wagging distraction to the men's team on the other side of the net.
I grinned. She may have gone up a size, but inwardly she hadn't changed a bit. She hadn't seen me yet, so I strolled up behind her, interrupting the game by saying wryly,
"Yanno? If yer not careful, somebody's gonna spike one of those things..."
She yelled, "Karen!" before she even turned around.
I either have a distinctive voice or my one-liners have a reputation.
We chatted awhile, much to the dismay of her audience, who were eyeing her tube top with anticipation and looking at me annoyed.
OH. Grin. I guess not everybody was glad to see me.
So I went away.
* * *
I spied Velma sitting in her yard with her family and walked around through their houses to go visit with her. We'd buried her husband on Tuesday, and Saturday would have been their 54th wedding anniversary, but here she was all stoic, sitting in the sun, and trying to celebrate life anyway. Her family was gathered around her in those plastic lawn chairs, and I heard "Karen!" again as I appeared in their backyard.
I admit, all that glee for me felt rather good. I took advantage of my welcome with another beer and a seat.
I've known this family since I was seven years old but I swear to you I had trouble telling the brothers apart. The thin one was now fat (and yep, purty drunk) and the one I had known as fat and drunk was now thin, shaky and sober, and obviously medicated, petting an adored terrier which sat devotedly in his lap.
"Did you bring your tarot cards?"
I shook my head and mouthed "no", smiling.
"Work" was my one-word reply.
Velma put her hand on mine knowingly, asking, "How's he feeling Karen?"
"Sober." I kept it brief again.
"Sober?" The thin shaky guy was Ronald for cryin' out loud. "He quit drinking?"
"Yep." I said, before swallowing the beer that was stuck in my own throat.
"What happened?" He asked this in wonder now.
"The doctor told him, 'Quit drinking or die'--so he quit drinking."
He nodded and petted his dog.
"That's what they told me."
"Hep?" I asked as I thought to myself, that this was way too casual a conversation, but nobody else seemed to blink.
"Yep" he replied, grinning at his own rhyme. "They had to take me off the painkillers when I went stage four cirrhosis, so now I'm just on the 'calm-me-downs'."
I said nothing, but his fat younger brother offered helpfully,
"But you look good bro, your hands especially,"
We were all quiet as Ronald explained, "I had lesions on my hands, they were ugly--they looked burnt."
His wife looked at him and said, "But they're all better now baby..."
He looked down at his shaking hand, and I could see, then, his scars, and his voice sounded strangled as he asked her, not looking at her, "Then why can't I just touch your breast?"
Her eyes filled with tears as she looked at me quick to see if my look passed judgement on her.
I worried that they had.
Then I worried about the karma of that...
* * *
I waited in the awkward silence then, for an appropriate time to beg my leave. Suddenly the beer tasted bad and the sun was too hot.
* * *
All prayers are welcome at this point, good poets, with my gratitude in advance. Sorry I'm not around as much, but I feel like a poison pill of depression these days.
This drug, "Interferon" makes sick people sicker before it helps get them well and we are going into this weary, carrying much baggage.