We were gathered around the fire in the rain and Sara, who had accompanied Christopher, asked me, “How long did you know her?”
Barely given a chance to answer, Christopher interjected, “Forever.”
There was suitable, universal truth in it that really negated any answer that left my lips.
It was either Will or Janet who added that Kim and I were hetero life-partners. Christopher laughed and said he was going to say the same thing. I also spoke up and said that no matter how you wanted to define it, my relationship with Kimmie was definitely its own love affair.
She was so protective of me on many levels and I recall a time my RV was parked at her parent’s house and I was living with the whole family. I had gone on a second date with a man I met online. He was a circus saxophone player that had a strange obsession with the fact that I lived in an RV. Kim drove me to the bar where I was meeting him and dropped me off.
I didn’t realize that she was waiting for me to call her and tell her when I needed to be picked up. I had a few drinks and stayed engrossed in conversation until we closed out the bar. There might have been some kissing in the parking lot and we grabbed an Uber to get dropped off at our respective homes.
The next morning when I came in for my normal visit for coffee and breakfast, I was facing Kim’s fury. She was mad that I hadn’t called her to be picked up. I explained that it was late and I didn’t realize she had been waiting. I felt as if I had stepped into a trap.
“Did you sleep with him?” she asked me from the opposite couch where we sat in the mornings.
“What?” I was surprised. “No, I didn’t sleep with him!”
“Are you sure?” the force and power in her voice only carried the lasers from her eyeballs.
I was completely taken aback. As if I wouldn’t know if I had sex with someone “Yes, I’m sure! Why would I lie to you?”
It was during that exchange that I realized how much her mama bear instincts were coming out and with my terrible track record and her witnessing the total disasters my relationships with Mike or Brendan were, I couldn’t actually blame her.
However, there did come a time in our relationship where I did lie to her.
Kim and I would often talk of esoteric things that contained mysteries of the universe. She would frequently refer to me as the Oracle at Gel-i instead of Delphi and put a lot of weight in my “knowing.” In her trips to the clinic and the weeks of chemo weighed on her I would tell her that I saw decades in front of her. For a time that was true.
Then came the spring of 2017 and we were sitting outside in her back yard. In many instances, she had to wear a helmet because a piece of her skull had been removed from a complication of infection from one of her brain surgeries. It was a beautiful sunny day and I could see her struggling with the heaviness of being a professional patient.
“Do you still see decades?” she blurted out.
“Yes,” I didn’t hesitate, “so many decades. DECADES!”
The weight of the lie settled upon my heart and I cradled it and purpose behind it. I would never kill the hope that continued to keep her alive. As the months passed I made plans with Kim for when she got better.
I would take her to the top of Bell Rock and she would see how beautiful Sedona was. She would get to experience the strangeness of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. There would be a time we would be independent artists meeting up in Paris at a cafe and we would even grow old enough to sit on a porch and have fights about nothing to make ourselves feel alive.
Even as I held on to those narratives I watched as her spirit, tethered to her body, kept drifting farther and farther away. Even Kim would talk about how disconnected she felt at times and I would justify it by saying it was how she was protecting herself. I began to wonder if she could see through my stories and was just pretending along with me.
When December arrived in 2017, heralded by her birthday on the 1st, I made a trip to her house. This time there was no energy for karaoke, or a trip to the Pacific Ocean and Hoh rainforest in the RV, or a trip to Los Angeles like we had done in previous years. I brought her a balloon, plus pictures in frames of a photo shoot we had done with Fischer by the Mukilteo lighthouse before he passed of lymphoma that September. We ate cake and ice cream and I watched as that tether had become ever so tenuous. When I left for my own home, complete with a single tiny surviving dog, I cried. I had this inescapable feeling that it was the last birthday we would share together with her here.
Even with my past experiences in loss, I’m stumbling and fumbling around. Was it right for me to lie to her in that way? Should I have been more honest or was the exercise of pretend and imagination just as important as the act of living? I may never know.
I do know that Kimmie earned her way into my heart as one of my best friends. She carried me maybe more often than I carried her. The friendship she shared with me is one of those love affairs that so many people hope to have but never get to experience. I’m grateful to have walked through the intensity of joy and sorrow that only a deep connection like that can bring. I loved her and I still do.