I had a dream Thursday night. I was in it, and in it, I happened to glance at a TV. The TV was on. The picture was me, in black and white, just as I am now, smiling out at me; and I said, “You look happy today”. This made me happy. And that’s the end of the dream.
So Saturday I put fifty-seven dollars’worth of gold – uh, gas – in the LeSabre and headed east, out to visit my friend Paula.
Paula lives in New Richmond, a lovely hour-and-some trip to Wisconsin. iPod charged, cell phone set on “vibrate” and tucked under my right leg, I lowered all four windows. I adore the open road.
Paula and I have been friends for 21 years. We know each other well and do a lot of laughing, one of those relationships that make your cheeks hurt. We have been through nine boyfriends, 16 changes of residence, 12 jobs, and a minimum of six different hair colors between the two of us. I will not even venture a guess at the weight the two of us have gained and lost over the years but suffice it to say I never hope to see any of it carted on to a stage in a wheelbarrow, ala the Oprah Winfrey Show.
New Richmond is a small town surrounded by plenty of rolling hills, corn fields, and fresh air.
And what do you do when there’s plenty of fresh air?
You sit inside and engage in a 24-hour indoor maelstrom of talking, Scrabble, beer, and, heaven help me, cigarettes.
Please don’t look at me like that. I know I said I quit. I’ve let you down. I‘ve let myself down. Well, I don’t really care about having let myself down (of course, I’m not feeling completely “myself” today, so who knows what I’ll think tomorrow). But I know me. I’ll forgive me, eventually.
But aside from the cigarette pit I fell into, I actually feel a little badly for a different reason: I didn’t pay for any of it.
Now, the beer I had expected was on her. I mean, them’s the rules. But I had fully intended on stopping for cigarettes before I got to her house. Incidents I can only just now vaguely recall are the reason I couldn’t stop (something about the streets being blocked off for a parade. I think I narrowly missed a float: “25 Years of Septic Excellence”. And maybe something about a determined and sprinting tuba player). But anyway, I beat the parade, but I didn’t get the cigarettes.
Paula knows me, though, and had two packs, unopened and waiting when I got to her house. This, as she would tell you, isn’t her first time at the rodeo.
Scrabble. There’s a drinking game for you. Did you know that “wangle” is a word? I would’ve bet against it. I mean, “wrangle”, maybe, but “wangle”? No way. She looked it up later and sonuvagun, wangle’s a word! So not only do I steal her cigarettes (repeatedly), drink her beer (happily), and scarf down her home-made meals (gratefully), I deny her a perfectly good word! Well, I’ll be wangled! Actually, that doesn’t work, but I like how it sounds. Anyway, the very next game she put down “joie”, most definitely a French word and not allowed, but neither of us said a thing. She knew she had that one coming.
We’re pretty evenly matched, Paula and I; and while it’s absolutely a friendly game, we also know it’s all about the points. We do, however, have a general and low-anxiety gripe with the list of allowed two-letter words, and mock the use of “es” and “en”. I think it’s because neither of us knows what these words mean or why they're words. Paula got over her disdain at one point, though, and used “xi” with devastating and enviable results at the end of our third game, beating me soundly.
There was laughter, there was Scrabble, there was beer (or, if you’re Paula, vodka/cranberrys), and there was smokes. In that order. We ended the night around 2:00, although I laid in bed reading until 4:30.
I left in the morning after breakfast Scrabble with Paula and her home-from-camping boyfriend Dave. Dave will have to be the subject of future blogs (he has an Oklahoman accent that makes him sound very 1940’s in a dashing, cowboy sort of way).
Paula and I don’t linger over our good-byes. We hug, I back out of the driveway, I do a bit of fancy honking and I’m on the road again. I hit a dead-end within the first three minutes, somehow, but other than the annoyance of having to turn around so quickly, the drive home was uneventful.
You know, it just occurred to me that I could’ve just given money to Paula for having smoked so many of her cigarettes. And just as quickly it’s occurred to me that I don’t have to feel badly, that there will be a next time and I can make it right then.
At this point, this is where Paula would smile at me and say, “Now how long did it take you to figure that out?” And I would smile and have to admit, “Oh, my whole life.”
You know, I rarely dream. Or perhaps it is that I rarely remember having dreamt. But I dreamt Thursday night, and what I dreamt Thursday night was actually just a little taste of the effect a Day with Paula has on me.
Anyway, thanks, Paula.
Be Not Separate
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