Lost and Found

January 25, 2009

Quintessential Evelyn

Quintessential Evelyn

I found an old friend today. She was my best friend. I thought I’d never ever see her or hear her or sit beside her again on a hot humid day in Washington,D.C., arguing the finer points of the Maplethorpe exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery. Never hear the emphatic and amusing high note in her voice as she stretched out a syllable to make an extra added point. Never again see her in a red silk suit, spaniard-with-flamenco-guitar1watching a flamenco dancer and holding a glass of ruby red wine as we celebrated her birthday. Never be amazed yet again at the shoes she would wear – pilgrim style all black with big silver buckles and clunky wooden heels or white suede flats with laces and white leather fringe – that I called ugly at the store but which looked infinitely stylish the minute she slipped them on her feet.

brazier2This is the friend who took me to an old-fashioned lingerie shop in downtown D.C., and taught me the value of a well-fit bra, who helped me learn how to put on eye liner, blush and pick the right shade of lipstick. This woman taught me that black can be worn with brown (I had a limited clothing color palette). She is the fashion-forward friend who pronounced that Red is the New Black then Gray was the new Black and finally Black was the new Black.

elvisThis is my friend who traveled from Baltimore to Graceland on a charter bus with an all woman Elvis fan club. She had a professionally framed picture of Elvis, girdled and zipped into a white leather pantsuit, which hung in a place of honor in her apartment in Adams-Morgan. She believed that the South was the true promised land, that professional wrestling was athleticism at it’s best, understood the writings of Jean Genet and quoted Christopher Lasch from “The Culture of Narcissism” frequently; I don’t remember any of the content but I will never forget the name of that book.

adam-and-eve1This woman made a small black and white film staring a lovely couple named Tony and Collette who played Adam and Eve in a visual poem about the Garden of Eden; Collette, a locksmith, later blamed my friend and the film for her subsequent break-up with Tony. But as my friend explained, “It wasn’t that their lives fell apart because they made the film, it was because the story was actually a blueprint, a coding that predicted the path their lives would take.”

This was my best friend and she taught me how to laugh. She shared her secret for making pasta al dente and dreamed up the most original dinner parties. One them was an calla-lilies1all white event where everything was white – the food (think turnips, potatoes, cauliflower and yogurt), her grandmother’s white lace tablecloth and Calla Lilies in the Milk Glass vase at the center of the table. Or the alphabet dinner party where the entire alphabet had to be represented in food, wine and table decorations. There were apples, and brocolli, camembert and daisies, eggplant, fringe on the table runner and garlic cloves hanging in the hallway.
My best friend taught me to look at the universe in new ways. She was like a kaleidescope; each time we talked about the writings of Roland Barthes, deconstructed Thelma & Louise or discussed the latest issue of Vanity Fair, my brain would fill up with more colors from more angles and suddenly I was Dorothy entering the magic kingdom, ruby slippers on my feet, Toto at my side, living a technicolor life in a technicolor world.

I am not a happy person. I’m not funny and I always drink a glass that is half-full. With my best friend at my side the cup was full to overflowing, the world one giant oyster and we were the life of every party.

When we broke up, as women friends sometimes do, the colors in my kaleidescope faded, the turning device broke and I was stuck at a crooked angle in a colorless landscape wondering how I would ever recapture Cerulean Blue, Alizarin Crimson or Burnt Sienna. How I would ever plan another dinner party or pick out the right pair of shoes without her at my side?

I have dreamed about her every so often during the past 14 years since we last spoke. In each dream she was with a group of women I did not know and they were talking and walking together and I stood on the side watching as she and her entourage of fascinating friends flocked by, unaware that a lonely large-eyed woman who had forgotten how to smile stood on a street corner dressed all in black.

I told new friends about my old friend. I described her thick brown hair which changed monthly from long to short, blond to black, bangs to chignon and back again. I described her garment bag filled with elegant suits from Saks and how she never washed her face with water, instead opting for a facial cleanser which she took off with balled cotton. I regaled them with stories about her relationship with a quirky boy named Jeff who was obsessed with talking chimps and heavy metal parking lots: he was Jewish and as they fell more deeply in love she checked out a book from the library called “So, You Wanna Be A Jew?” I described in detail the short story she wrote called “How To Read A Fashion Magazine” and mused that although I loved the concept and never tired of hearing her talk about the narrative, story structure and her literary choice of an unreliable narrator, her endlessly fascinating ideas became obscure and convoluted when translated to the ever-flat surface of paper.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras King Cake

And finally I remembered so sweetly the time she decided to plan a Mardi Gras party at work and spent hours researching how exactly to order a King Cake that was to be sent straight from New Orleans to our downtown D.C. corporation in time for our very own Fat Tuesday.

I told my new friends how my old friend was one of the loves of my life until I got married, moved away and needed her too much for our friendship to survive. I ruminated over our final conversation and replayed it in my mind, listening to it like a verse on a broken phonograph record that gets repeated over and over again until you tap the needle and finally move on to the next part of the song.

Our last conversation went something like this: She told me that I needed to be fully myself, to say whatever was in my heart or on my mind. I told her there were things too painful to talk about or act about at that moment in my life and I asked her if she could say what she needed to say to me in a gentler way. She said she couldn’t be herself if she had to edit her words. I felt judged. She felt misunderstood. We didn’t speak again.

Until today when I heard her voice for the first time in 14 years. The voice that was as familiar to me as my own. The voice that sounded just like yesterday but wasn’t. The friend I lost and thought I would never find. A friend. A best friend and I used to be her best friend until the last time we visited in June of 1996 in Washington, D.C. and she introduced me to her new boyfriend as her friend not her best friend and my heart stopped cold as I recognized what she already knew.

I found an old friend today that I haven’t talked to since my divorce from a man I never loved but decided to marry hoping that friendship could grow to passion. She never knew that I dropped into a deep, dark depression from which I thought I’d never return or that I sat alone in an apartment in NW Portland watching the World Trade Center collapse and wishing I could call her to talk about witnessing the towers crack and fall from grace and hear her explain in terms of metaphor what was happening to our world. A friend who never sat beside me in my two-door white Saturn hatchback, dogs stuffed into the backseat, the CD-player blasting Sheryl Crow as I drove down to Chico, California every month to see a therapist who would put me into a trance and help my unconsious mind untangle years of crooked pathways and anxious synpases.

Design by Gaultier

Design by Gaultier

My best friend had no idea that I went to Paris for my 45th birthday, dining on apple tarte tatin and beef bourguignon, sipping chocolat chaud at the Angelica Cafe and walking the Champs-Elysees, wishing she were there beside me staring into shop windows and exploring the Jean Paul Gaultier Salon on Avenue Georges V where I imagined she would have intrigued me with stories of how the enfant terrible rose to Parisian fashion fame.

Voodoo Donut Donut Doll

Voodoo Donut Donut Doll

My friend wasn’t the first one I called to tell her I’d met a man named Laurence who called himself Lars who had wavy copper red hair, a strong jawline and a great smile with gaps between two of his teeth. I dubbed him the “Irish God” and our love story was beset with starts and stops, Voodoo Donuts, an antique garnet promise ring, and a meglomaniacal pitbull named Gretel.

I didn’t call her to tell her I was engaged. That Laurence rested on one knee in a small steam-heated hut hidden in the woods at Breitenbush Hot Springs and handed me a soapstone box covered with carved roses and vines which held between layers of purple silk a mine-cut Victorian diamond engagement ring. She never knew my wedding dress was tea length or that my shoes were Wizard of Oz-like Stuart Weitzman mules topped with large crinoline golden bows; the very same shoes that I wore to my first wedding. The wedding where my best friend was my maid of honor, stunning in a long black evening gown with criss-crossed straps, her newly trimmed puff of dyed blond hair showing just enough black roots to make her the most fashionable woman in the room.

0241She never received an invitation to my second wedding at Genoa with a seven-course sit-down meal for 50, negronis for apperitifs, orchids on the tables and in my bouquet and a three tiered bittersweet chocolate torte cake covered with chocolate roses topped by a bride and groom statuette circa 1958 that I bought on eBay.

My friend never saw the pictures of our honeymoon in Zihuatenjo, Mexico where we stayed at a villa on the side of a cliff, looking down at the bay and the Pacific Ocean, eating lime pancakes, drinking fresh grapefruit juice and tequila, reading in the swinging hammock on our private balcony and taking multiple photos of the giant dead tarantula Laurence found in the middle of a small village road.

for-sale-signShe wasn’t there to call when I got my real estate license. I couldn’t talk to her about how I felt like a failure, that with a BA in Photography, an MA in Film and the credentials of an international executive on my resume, I was trading in everything I had accomplished for a gold jacket, a lockbox key and a For Sale sign.

She didn’t see my career take off or watch as I realized that real estate was actually a pretty cool career. She never knew I was helping people find home (she would have appreciated all the metaphors) and building myself a small empire: Buying and selling houses for myself and my clients, making more money then God or at least more then I had ever imagined making and using that money, rather unwisely, on private guest houses in Ireland, Italian hand-made shoes, beach cottages in Manzanita, vintage diamonds and black patent leather handbags from Paris.

She missed my recent mid-life crisis that lasted an entire year from my 49th to my 50th birthday. I didn’t call her from the depths of my overstuffed down chair

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

where I lay curled up for endless hours staring zombie-like at the large black and white photo of a street scene in Marseilles, wondering if I had enough time left to pick up a few of the pieces of the many dreams I had dropped on my way through the decades; artist dreams, creative dreams that haunted me like angry old ghosts refusing to retire gracefully to another dimension until I finally picked up a pen or camera, a pastel crayon or a block of sumi Japanese ink and scribbled my inside visions outside so I was no longer invisible to all but myself.

And through all these years that I was missing her and looking for her and imaging what she would say about my retreat to Long Beach, Washington or what she would think about the low-VOC colors I had chosen to paint the interior of my house, all this time I was convinced that she never wanted to see me again. After 14 years of nursing a broken frienship heart, we are talking on the phone and she is telling me how she tried to find me too and thought I had e-blocked her messages and today I finally heard her voice again and it all came rushing back, what was lost has now been found and time has compressed itself and I wonder if 14 years was merely 14 days?

I found an old friend today. Heard her voice and caught the edges of her new life and the first thing we talked about were celebrity couple names where you combine two names into one and she told me that she and her husband were “Tomelyn” and we tried to tease out something for Rachel and Laurence but “Laurchel” just didn’t sound sexy enough to appear on the pages of People or US Weekly.

lockShe told me about what it was like at 40 when she felt most connected to herself and rented the first floor of a house owned by the locksmith Collette who lived on the second floor. During that time my friend was constantly interrupted by beautiful, young men knocking on her door in search of Collette and she would tell them to go around to the steps at the side of the house.

And one day in June a guy named Tom with salt and pepper hair and a chiseled face and body stood outside her front door and knocked. He was a friend of Collette’s but wasn’t there for Collette. He had been watching my friend from his woodworking shop across the street and hoped they could strike-up a conversation. Instead she flung the door open and stood there annoyed; he quickly retreated upstairs.

The following November their son Thomas was born and the following October they were married. I missed her wedding, a small affair she explained. I missed her pregnancy and the birth of her son and his christening at the Catholic Church where she and Tom take Thomas every Sunday to hear mass and take communion.

I’ll never get to see her pregnant and although she insists that her friends in D.C. romanticized the event (as her friend Joan once remarked “Even a pottie-trainingcow can get pregnent.”) I would love to have seen her body grow round and get swollen with the promise of a tiny new personality inside. I would like to have watched as she prepared for an experience I would never have: Days of changing dirty diapers, breast feeding at 3:00 am, pottie training, tantrums and the first smile, the first step and the first word – barely more then a breath – recorded faithfully in a satin-bound baby book kept carefully on the shelf for special occasions.

I found an old friend today and she told me that she loved my intelligence and the fact that I would insist on giving time to acknowledge important interior moments in her life and mine. She told me I had a moral voice that she admired, that our relationship was special because of the way our personalities formed and fit together and that she felt that I added a burnish to her life.

Burnish: bur-nish
Function: transitive verb
Date: 14th Century
Etymology: Middle English burnischen, from Anglo-French burniss-, stem of burnir, alteration of Old French brunir.
1 a : to make shiny or lustrous especially by rubbing
b : polish



I found my best friend today after 14 years of second-guessing our relationship, of wondering if I ever meant anything to her in the way she had to me. I found my best friend today after 14 years of imagining her life without me as filled with experimental filmmaking, published treaties on the cultural significance of the World Wrestling Foundation and why theology needs depth psyhology to survive; magical motherhood and one endless romantic marriage covered with buckets of sweet-sceneted freesia, long lanquid nights on Kiawa Island and an old Victorian home filled with loud bursts of laughter and the smell of pork and sauerkraut mixed with the tart taste of apple pie.

I found my best friend today and she told me she lives in a ranch house in the suburb of Silver Spring, that sometimes she feels flat and tired, that she feels she has written out everything she has to say, that she doesn’t see herself as a perfect mom and that she, like me, struggles for a deeper connection with her husband and close friends.

Her perfect life existed only in my imagination and by knowing her true details she becomes rich and textured again and the colors in the kaleidescope of our friendship start to return and shift into new directions throwing light and truth onto a surface that once again takes on dimension.

I found my best friend today and realized, finally, that I have burnished her life as much as she has burnished mine. I’m excited to choose our celebrity friendship couple name – Ravelyn or maybe Everach – and I am ready to pick up the string of that long-lost conversation and turn it together, like wood on a lathe, as we watch the symmetry of our friendship rotate and spin into something new and well-crafted, something that can only be made by two, together.

I found an old friend today. lathe1


4 Responses to “Lost and Found”

  1. hublet Says:

    Love the lathe analogy. Very nice
    picture choices as always. A richly detailed account of events
    That most often go unexamined. Nice rythmn.

  2. Bijou Says:

    Thank you for your intuitive comments. I’m glad you like the rhythm and the details. And, of course, the pictures! I thought the lathe might appeal to you!

    • Bijou Says:


      thanks so much for reading. my friend who it was written about has not contacted me since i published it last week. i fear i have done something to put another crack into the relationship which was the opposite of my intent. if a few more days go by i will contact her directly. am glad that it is resonating with you.

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