Neeny and I have known each other for many years, twenty, at least. We start talking before she's got both feet out of her car. And then we walk. She starts the sentence, I finish it. Or, vice versa. Actually, it's more like a ping pong game, little white ball (see words, ideas, revelations) flying across the net, back and forth. Sometimes the volley is easy, other times fast and furious. Or really funny. We have a wonderful gift of finding one another incredibly funny. Even in the midst of what might seem like really painful conversations. Trust me, facial hair is very painful.
We cover all of it; hormones, husbands, aging parents, our changing faces. We tend to be hard on ourselves, at least some of the time, but all I see when I look at her is a beautiful, younger version of Sophia Loren. Neeny is my smart, generous, funny friend and an artist in every sense of the word. I know she sees me with way more compassion than I see myself. After one of our walk/talks, I always feel stronger, prettier, definitely more open-hearted, lighter. That invisible riding crop that I keep in my back pocket transforms into a magic wand. I am energized with secret powers, rather than riddled with fault lines.
Neeny's been through many of my hardest life lessons, most particularly the death of my mother. Every year she sends me a card, or some beautiful small gift in memory of her passing. And every year I weep with sheer gratitude for her remembering.
Today we stood at her car for close to thirty minutes, after saying our goodbyes. This is standard. This is when we get to the real stuff, to what we've been trying to say all along.
My husband came out and said, "Are you two in some kind of cult?"
We looked down and noticed we were wearing identical outfits; black yoga pants, gray shirts. Mine was long sleeve, hers was short. We waved to him and kept talking. Just then, a hawk flew low overhead, a tiny animal in its talons.
"Hawk," we both said, nodding to each other.
Then she got in her car and headed to the market.