The house feels empty these past two days, the two days since Jim Stone drove off to continue his cross-country odyssey of personal errands and visits with other friends along the way.
He had been here about nine days during which time it rained pretty much all day, every day. We ate a lot of good food, at home and in restaurants, defied the weather one morning to drive to Astoria for lunch at the Columbian Cafe and to buy some local, wine/maple-cured salmon.
We talked a lot (was it mostly me?), telling stories from the many years since we had last seen one another, of the books we've read, catching up on news of mutual friends, dissecting the politics of our era.
And we were quiet too - reading, writing email and because it's what we all do these days, puttering around for long periods online while forwarding the good stuff to each other from across the room.
We have both turned gray since we last visited in person. When could that have been? Certainly more than a decade ago although we've been in touch via email these past few years while he has been in Wyoming, Virginia, etc. and, recently, New Zealand.
Even though I kept up with blog posts, Jim's visit felt like a little island of time separate from my usual days, maybe like being on a train ride for a week. But it also felt ordinary, almost as if he were frequently here – lived down the lane, perhaps. Comfortable. Companionable. Agreeable.
We hugged goodbye at his car Tuesday and as I returned to the apartment in the early morning rain (good god, what a corny scene setting) tears unexpectedly stung my eyes.
Back inside, I found myself weeping quietly and I went back to bed for a couple of hours to nurse an unfamiliar ache.
Is it about Jim's leaving? Well, yes. No telling when we'll see one another again and at my age (Jim is 10 or 12 years younger), will there be a next time?
But these tears are something more than sadness at a friend's departure. I've said goodbye many times without this shiver of disquietude. It is different this time. Harder. More painful. An over-sized lump of dis-ease in my throat.
Yeah. Big brave me who has insisted all her life that she wants to live alone, prefers it that way and when she is really honest, admits to herself that she's just too selfish - well, self-absorbed is closer to true - to accommodate another person in the same living space.
Is that ground shifting now? It felt good to have someone around to plan dinner with, to chat with over breakfast, to share driving and dishwashing – the ordinary stuff.
It has been so long, living in Maine and now Oregon these past six-and-a-half years, since I've been with old friends in New York. I thought I missed the city - and I do - but this is a new kind of hurt.
It's a little late in life - and seems unfair - that at an age when one's circle of friends is diminishing as a natural course of things and nothing to be done about it, to wish to live a different way. To want another heartbeat in the house.