Several months ago, I wrote about spending an evening with the person who was my best friend when I was 14, Mark, and his older brother Doug. They had recently lost their father and their only other brother, and their mother died years ago, so they were the only two members of their family remaining. At the end of January, Mark called in tears to report that Doug himself had suddenly died! Mark and I are 52, and Doug was just 54, dead of a heart attack.
The following day was incredibly beautiful, like the most gorgeous Ann Arbor summer day. I was ironing and listening to the Brothers Johnson. When “Stomp!” came on, I got a vivid image of Doug way, way above us in the brilliant blue sky, dancing, joyful. Since he was so close in age to me and Mark, I have many memories of him from when I was a teenager.
That evening, Tom and I picked Mark and his wife Beth up at the airport and took them to San Jose. We went to their hotel so they could drop off their stuff, and stopped by Doug’s apartment, the door sealed by the coroner. Per the recommendation of a friend of Tom’s, we went to Santana Row for dinner, a strip of glittering high-end shops, including a Tesla showroom. We had burgers at the Left Bank Brasserie.
(Burgers? Yes. I decided to be a non-vegetarian just for Thanksgiving, and it has turned out that the slope between being a non-vegetarian just for Thanksgiving and being a non-vegetarian, period, was exceedingly slippery. But that’s OK. I still am a vegetarian at home, and I still care about the welfare of animals, but hanging around the soup kitchen has made me feel that being rigid about what one eats is unseemly, and so now if I feel like having meat when I’m eating out, I do, but not without guilt.)
During a phone date, my friend Margaux in Orange County whispered, “Hold on, I have to walk away from her before I say this,” and then she told me that her dog is at her heaviest weight ever: 13 pounds. It was considerate of her to step out of Khoi Loa’s earshot before dropping this bombshell.
Our administrative assistant at work told me she deals with pain very poorly, so when she left the house knowing she was going to the dentist to have a crown started, she told her sons, “Boys, if I don’t make it back, remember that Mama loves you—be strong.” She told me that once when she had a splinter in her hand, she went to the emergency room.
At the soup kitchen, I took a plate, bowl and spoon over to the bussing station and started to scrape them, but then saw that another volunteer was doing that task, so I joked, “I’ll let a professional handle this.” The other volunteer answered, “If you see one, tell him I’m working over here.”
I’ve noticed that many of the soup kitchen’s guests have unusually clear eyes. Maybe this is from having to look so hard for what they need, and from having to be so alert for looming dangers. (Or maybe just from not being able to afford a lot of junk food?)
One guest had his own police sheet laminated and hung around his neck; it features a photo of himself looking entirely deranged. To that he had added some religious images, and the word “Manopause.”