I see friends I haven’t seen in a long while. It is like we have not been away. One is so gauntly thin, now, that I can count the bones in her wrist. Her eyes and cheekbones are hollow, and her wedding ring is gone. “What happened?” I ask. “Spinal Meningitis. And he left me for his secretary,” she says. “I’m still mad at him for making me a cliche.” This is unthinkable. I see another friend, a newer one. This one looks healthy but seems to have acquired a taste for liquor that he takes immediately after conference sessions and in large quantities. He, too, is missing his ring. “What happened?” I ask again. “My wife told me she’s a lesbian,” he explains. “I think we can work it out.” I doubt that, but check myself at the impulse to share this information – what good has discouragement ever done? He gets a note from her at the end of the conference saying, “I’ve gone.” He does not know what this means – although everyone else does -- and is inconsolable.
Tracy, Rachel, (good Baylor friends and my roommates) and I play a new game: “Vagrant or academic?” I lose, spotting what I think is a vagrant outside of Starbucks who turns out to be wearing an ALA nametag. We become instant friends with two people who introduce themselves as Sari-like-Mary and Corinne-like-Maureen and talk about children we don’t have and reality shows and smutty books we love. We eat veggie burgers and Thai food covered in too much chili sauce and it keeps me warm even though I haven’t brought a coat and the ocean wind is cold here.