Step 1: Show Up When You Say You’re Going to Show Up
This weird introvert side of me, when mixed with the unconditionally loved part of me, makes it easy for me to cancel previously made plans. I had arranged to meet my friend Kimmie at the funeral of a mutual friend—more of a casual acquaintance in our artist community, actually. The morning of the funeral, I typed out a text to Kimmie: Annie’s trip to the vet yesterday wiped me out, and I’m nervous to leave her alone. This was a half-truth. I did feel spent after taking my aging cat to the vet and treating her with meds for a UTI, but I wasn’t that nervous about her condition. I was reacting to my need to recharge after having to leave the house, and banking on Kimmie still loving me even if I didn’t show up. This Step 1 required me to discard the text and to show up graveside (albeit hastily thrown together as a rebellion of having to go at all).
Step 2: Step Back
When I do go out in public, I tend to be like a jumpy dog—I’m the big yellow lab who slobbers and crotch sniffs upon meeting. This is not proper funeral etiquette, so I metaphorically leashed and muzzled myself and watched as Kimmie navigated the attendees. She had a deeper stronger network with this crowd, and the fact that I’d not showered on that hot summer afternoon strengthened my ability and desire to not be noticed.
Step 3: Listen
When we walked to our cars after the mingling and condolences, Kimmie blurted out news of trouble with a family member of hers. It came out of the blue, so I stopped walking, then steered us under the shade of a large tree. She talked. Told me more. I had planned a hasty exit after feeling like my original obligation was met, but here was my friend, with so much to say. I felt the guilt swell in my chest and come through my eyes as I hugged her. I hadn’t been a good friend, remembering the times when I had taken advantage too often of her unconditional love and skipped out on Step 1.
Step 4: Hold On A Little Longer
Kimmie and I ran through our options to continue our time together, agreeing on her place, ordering Sampan and smoking hand rolled cigarettes on her back patio as we waited. We caught up unburdened and felt together the loss of our friend, the worry for our families, and the gratitude for our friendship—like finding a special pendant in the jewelry box we’d not brought out to wear in a while. When I got home a few hours later, she texted me: Thank you for holding on a little longer. A video was attached, recorded from her doorbell camera—she and I hugging goodbye, Kimmie making a move to release, then her giggle and a tighter embrace when I did not let her go.
Meg Kinghorn is the big weirdo of the Ella/Meg Salty City Writing Workshop collaboration. She teaches Creative Non-fiction and Memoir at the University of Utah and gives herself and any other writer crossing her path unmitigated permission to write whatever the hell they want.