November 22, 2004

Clover's companion

I had a very dear friend and ex-lover in whose wedding I was a bridesmaid -- the kind of offer you can't refuse -- being in a wedding is supposed to be an honor. I felt rotten. I was losing my best friend and her dog, Clover, and I didn't even get to give them away. Call my friend Clover's companion, or CC for short.

Over dinner one night, CC told me that she had gotten engaged. It was the last dinner the two of us had alone. To this day I don't know if the groom knew his bride had slept with her bridesmaid.

It took a while for me to realize there would be no more mornings of waking up with Clover on my head, and CC photographing me, with her nine-pound dog covering my face. CC, wanting to document a funny scene. CC, the self-proclaimed lesbian-feminist of 1983, and I used to travel together, do holidays together, be each other's family.

I congratulated her, then cried my way to the liquor store and returned with good Champagne, to "celebrate." Normally, one glass is all I can handle. That night, between the two of us, we polished off the bottle. I felt stone-cold sober. CC felt it was right to hit on me -- tongue-down-my-throat, hands-on-my-breasts, no-mistaking-this-for-a-friendly-hug hit on me.

Excuse me? You tell me you're marrying a man, and then you lunge for me like there's no tomorrow, when we haven't been romantically involved for 15 years? And you were the one who ended it then, who stopped speaking to me for 5 years, then reconnected, because you called shortly after my father had died, and I thought then, life is short. I did still love her.

I made it through CC's engagement parties, the wedding, in 2001. I left the country the next day. Switzerland is very lovely in the spring.

Cut to the summer of 2003. August. The New York City 30+ hour blackout. I had stopped by CC's en route home from a vacation. I hadn't seen her in months. I expected to stay an hour. Con Edison had different ideas. I am a city girl: I take elevators to the 19th floor, where CC and her husband lived; I need to see the color of the traffic light before I cross against it. I wasn't going anywhere.

I was the one with the cell phone and urban survival skills. CC didn't know cordless phones were useless without electricity. Or that water reached her apartment via an electric pump and hence, was out for the duration. (If you want to flush a toilet in that situation, your bathtub had better be already filled with water, since you will need a bucket of water to flush the toilet clean.) She didn't know how to override the automatic pilot light on her stove, the stove I'd taught her how to use.

So I spent the night. Apparently I didn't dress properly in front of her husband the next day, and CC was so upset by that she couldn't speak to me for months.

A year later, she called. I love you, she said. I miss you. Clover misses you. There's a huge void in my life, and it's you. Can we have a clean slate? Can we be friends? We made a lunch date. I cancelled. I made a list of big-ticket items that need to be discussed before we even think of wiping the slate clean, and I called her. Apologies all around. No date set up.

An hour later she called, wanting a lunch date, as if to seal the deal. I agreed, then a few hours later I cancelled again. She wanted the hours of friendship limited to those when her husband wasn't working, when he couldn't be with her, or else he had to be included in the picture. So much for female solidarity. So much for individuality. Finally I said, "I will always love you, but I cannot be your friend."

This was a few months ago, and while I am sad about the outcome -- all those secrets, all those years of our supporting each other -- I realized my limitations, and, finally, as kindly as I could, I let her go. It's not necessarily the outcome I would have wanted, but it protects me, and I'm proud of the way I handled the situation. It took a long, long, time to get to that place. What I miss is our shared history; what I don't miss is the reality in which CC currently lives.

I do, however, miss Clover.


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