Erica did not remember her mother, her best friend as a child, who cooked her dinner and did her laundry and was there to talk with outstretched arms the minute something went wrong. She did not remember her blanket, which she hadn’t let out of sight from the day she was born until she was ten. She didn’t remember her first love, one of the most special times in her life. She didn’t remember losing her job, getting evicted from her house and living on the street, nor did she remember Steven, the man who helped her through all of that and made her life worthwhile. She didn’t remember her wedding day, one of the happiest moments of her life, or any of her three children. What Erica did remember as she lay in the overheated hospital room, knowing she was going to die soon, was her best friend from preschool, Jessica. They met on the swings one fall morning, Erica too shy to ask the louder kids to get off. She waited until there was an empty swing, and then approached it cautiously. Jessica came up to that swing at the same moment, and jumped on, laughing, “I beat you, I beat you!” When she saw how hurt Erica looked, Jessica’s Velcro sneakers skidded on the ground before the swing came to a complete stop, and she hopped off and offered the swing to Erica. Erica was just about to climb on when the teacher blew the whistle to come back inside, but Erica and Jessica were back out the next day, the first ones to the swings. Jessica moved away a few months later, and being only four, they didn’t exchange addresses or phone numbers, so they never saw each other again. Erica couldn’t place why she thought of her first real friend as a ninety-five year old woman dying in a hospital bed, but there was something special about that moment when Jessica stepped off the swing that meant more to Erica than her husband or her three kids, and that’s the thought that went through Erica’s head as the machines stopped and her heart beat for the final time.
July 15, 2008