We have been friends since we were so young that we still believed love was uncomplicated. When we met, during those first weeks of college, one of us curled her bangs, one owned an ancient Dodge Dart and another still had her high school boyfriend (I think; she always had a boyfriend and he never seemed to go to school with us. Also, I was not the one who curled her bangs.)
K and I spent a good part of sophomore year sprawled on parallel couches that sagged in the middle and finishing our own bags of potato chips. She graduated in three years; I never really got over her leaving me. Although she did go to grad school in NYC. J was more mysterious in college. She was friendly, out-going, generous, part of the inner circle, but missing too. (Maybe the boyfriends, maybe the reserve hidden under the friendliness.)
The three of us bonded over margaritas and Thursday dinners in NYC after graduation. I was living back home. K was in a series of dangerous apartments; J lived with good roommates on 92nd Street by the FOR. I was the last one dropped off by the cab.
There were fits and starts. Careers that changed. Weddings, babies, never mine. I was the single, independent one, and when I got close, it was so dramatic that it never jelled. When my relationship & life crashed & burned in Colorado, I made 4 calls. My sister, K, J, and a male friend who is lost to time. J got on a plane and picked me up & out of there. She stood by me while I sobbed through the return of my wedding rings on day 31 of a 30-day policy. She watched me drop a claddagh ring in the seat pocket. K called and called when my sister was dying. She never let me disappear. They are my other sisters, and like my real one, the relationships have never been perfect or easy. They just are.
We are on a blanket on the Eastern Promenade in Portland, Maine, where K lives, on a sunny and warm Saturday in June. We’ve had a tough year, but it feels good to be here, giggling so hard that we almost lose consciousness. K’s ambivalent about her cat. J & I watch a couple hug from waist up. His hands roam, but she pulls out and away. K gets restless after four hours. She takes a quick walk and watches a wedding. I almost have a panic attack when K describes a bowl of uncooked rice that she keeps at work for the kids to dig into. I picture grubby hands, the primordial soup of bacteria in those grains. We laugh and I shudder. I watch the sailboats and when I’m tired of sitting up, I watch the clouds. Longing. Always longing nowadays. J explains her theory of finding sweet in the bitter.
But this moment is sweet. Sweet beyond measure.