Christine is a friend of mine who still lives in New York City. We met at work in 1989. Between the two of us, she is the one who writes more. I think of her often, though, more than she realizes.

One day, I got a letter from Christine. Oh, maybe at least 4, 5 years ago. “I’m going to send you my book collection about the Southwest Native Americans”, she said.

Why, I asked. She said, “I’m simplifying my life from now on. Stripping it bare.”

Although she comes across to me as one who likes to live simply, Christine also strikes me as the one friend of mine I barely could know, and not for lack of trying. She mystifies me with her various layers. Although she is always truthful to me, she leaves me with that feeling of “not all you see is all you should see”. After trying for 23 years, I have thrown in the proverbial towel, conceding to the realization that I will not be the one who will be her repository of secrets and little known truths.

In her prior “life”, she told me  she worked as a social worker. She also danced for some performance arts company, called the Imaginarium. I know she had told me that she also whiled the late nights away by sewing clothes, as she held her joint in the corner of her mouth (and I thought to myself, “ahh, so typical of that generation”). She had been engaged once to a musician. Christine does love her music, and holds season tickets to the chamber music performances as well as the ones at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.

But after all is said and done, I can’t say I know her.

When I would phone her–and I would always be the one to initiate the phone call (which she more than makes up for, by sending me short notes written on special occasion cards)–Christine talks about work, about people we both knew from work, about how muggy it has gotten in New York in the summer, and other ordinary things. I find that I am listening to all this, but I am not contributing much to the conversation. How I love to hear her voice, but after an hour or so of this, I am ready to end the phone call…and once again, am left wondering who have I just spoken to? Once again, after each phone call ends, she is a stranger to me. How can we consider ourselves friends of 23 years, I wonder everytime.

Christine said she was simplifying her life. The life she had that I barely knew she has had, and whose bits and pieces are coming to me, by way of her book collections. I am to treasure what is being offered to me, and I am to have a carefully curated collection of what “Christine” used to hold and treasure..prior to life’s simpification process.


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