I called my good friend Amanda today. This is not news; Amanda and I have been calling each other ever since she taught College Writing and I was her reader. That was a long time ago, and a lot of water has run under the bridge spanning the distance from college to now. Now I’m the one teaching College Writing. Until the crash hit Amanda edited books at a small publishing house. In 2009, just a few years from retirement and by all reports somewhat cranky, Amanda was “downsized.” Faced with the challenge of finding a job in a market where her advanced education–she has two Master’s degrees–and her advanced age combined with the exigency of the times, Amanda cracked. For a while, she slipped away into a terrifying world of her own.
I didn’t know where she was for a long time, and then it was still longer before she was able to receive phone calls. The friend who passed her contact information on to me warned me that she might not be able to talk, and that her reality might not fit very closely with mine. I called anyway, and we talked. When we hung up the phone I was sad for Amanda, but I was grateful to have been reminded that friendship doesn’t necessarily demand meshing realities. In the same way that we all make allowances for our differing views of the world, I could make allowances for the fact that Amanda’s world included events that mine didn’t. The important thing was that we were still friends.
Time has passed, and calls to Amanda have become a regular part of my life. She’s in a locked care facility now–she has to be, for her own safety–and during each call we still veer into lands where all familiar landmarks disappear, but I take comfort in knowing that we’re still walking the path together, strange as it may be.
So anyhow, today I called Amanda.
“Hello?” she said.
“Is this a good time?” I asked. “You sound sleepy.”
“Oh, I was just laying on my bed,” she said. “This is fine.”
She didn’t sound fine, but she often doesn’t when our conversations begin. It seems to take a little time for her to find her way back from wherever it is she goes. I have learned to just keep talking, and give Amanda enough time and clues to remember me.
And, as always happens, it doesn’t take long. I know when she remembers; I can hear it in her voice. This time it’s about the time I mention of Osama bin Laden. And then, except for Amanda’s recurring worry about President Obama’s impending third term, and her concern about his mental state after being shot like he was, it’s old times.We discuss politics, common friends, how we fill our days, our worries. And of course, we discuss the events of last weekend.
Because we’re both middle aged and, given our respective diagnoses, we compare anti-depressants and dosing schedules. Then, we go back to rehashing last weekend and, as we always do, arrive at a plan for handling the situation that we consider far superior to what actually happened.
“That’s how it would have been handled, if I were queen of the world,” I brag.
Amanda snickers. It’s good to hear. “Yeah,” she says. “Next time there’s a terrorist to be taken out they’ll be calling on us to handle it.”
And then she begins to laugh, loud, full, belly laughs like I haven’t heard from her in years. And I laugh along with her. We laugh until we cry at the idea of the Government calling on one woman who takes two forms of anti-depressants to function, and her best pal who resides in a locked ward to go on super-secret missions in hot, dusty lands.
“I gotta go,” I finally say, remembering my deadlines.
“Well, when they call on you, you let me know,” Amanda chuckles. And we hang up, holding our sore stomachs and still laughing in short, helpless bursts.
I’ve been laughing ever since.The image of driving up to Amanda’s hospital, breaking her out of her locked ward, and zooming away to exotic places is a lovely, lovely thought. I hope it becomes part of Amanda’s reality.