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Ps & Qs: Friends for life

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My greatest fear is that the light at the end of the tunnel, that bright light people report seeing when they have a near-death experience, is the overhead light in the delivery room, and we go from one life to another without so much as a nap.

“I said, but I’m tired.” – George Thorogood

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This was one of the songs my best friend and I often quoted to each other, along with clips from Eddie Murphy’s stand-up and our favorite 80s movies: Romancing the Stone, Overboard, Joe vs the Volcano, etc.

“There’s an island in the South Pacific called Waponi Woo… The Waponis are known throughout Polynesia as having a peculiar love of orange soda and no sense of direction.”

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Almost ten years ago, my best friend was hit by a car while crossing six lanes of traffic, at night, after drinking, and she was not in the crosswalk. Still, these are not transgressions that warrant dying on the pavement, being resuscitated by the paramedics, and spending weeks in the ICU surrounded by family and friends, while The Golden Girls plays constantly on the television set in the corner. That’s the last time I spent with Lisa, talking and reading to her while she lay immobile in the hospital. Even though I knew she could not respond because of extensive damage to her brain stem, it seemed at any moment she would open her eyes and give that little toss of her head that was so familiar after twenty-one years of friendship. Lisa and I became friends in high school and remained close until her death: college, boyfriends, career, marriage, divorce, next career… through it all we stayed in touch and saw each other often.

On a recent trip to Mexico, my husband and I stayed in the same hotel where Lisa and I had once stayed in our twenties; coincidence? Yes, that’s what it’s called. Lisa and I decided to go deep sea fishing, as neither of us had ever been, and we had this romantic notion of ourselves starring in an all-day Jimmy Buffet song. We had to be there by 6:00 am and as far as I can remember this was the only early morning we ever saw together, without staying up all night I mean. ( We actually set the alarm clock for 5:30 and took a taxi to the marina. After purchasing two mayonnaise sandwiches at a little shack on the dock we boarded the S.S. An American Sucker Born Every Minute and we were off.

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A couple hours later, and not a single fish in sight, Lisa looked around and asked casually, “Where’s the beer?” When told that this was B.Y.O.B.B. (Bring Your Own Beer Boat) Lisa and I knew we’d been had. Not only was our lookout wearing coke-bottle lenses while facing aft but there were at least three other boats noisily trolling the water too; scaring away anything underneath. Even on a rickety tourist-trap vessel with a bunch of sober strangers and no beer or fish in our near future, Lisa and I could have fun. Taking pictures of each other and of Ahab, we laughed and talked of the margaritas waiting for us back on shore. Finally, around 3:00 pm, we spotted a sailfish. All four boats revved up and headed in the same direction, and it was only then that I realized this fish might actually die today. I started to concentrate on the last place in the water I had seen the fish jump, and in my head I yelled over and over, “Go deep! GO DEEP!”

After all the boats gave up and we were headed back to shore, I looked up to see Lisa glaring at me with an irritated expression.

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“What?” I asked, trying to sound innocent.

“I could practically FEEL you telling that fish to swim far away and fast.”  She said; half annoyed.

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I gave her a big smile, “Whadd’ya mean?”

“You know what I mean. And I really wanted to catch a fish today.”

Back at the hotel that night, dining on margaritas and the best hamburger of my life, we rehashed our one and only deep-sea fishing story, punctuating it with familiar quotes and laughter, creating another memory to last a lifetime; maybe more than one.

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