Last year I visited the city in which we became friends, and I tried to find that pie place. It must have closed at some point. I never knew its name or address, only that it was west of the expressway. I got off at every exit, muttering to myself that it had to be somewhere, even it was east of the sun and west of the moon. I wanted to find it and order four slices of pie and eat them with two forks—a bite for you, and a bite for me, the flavors intermingling on our tongues and reminding us of all the meals we shared. I can see that pie place as clearly as I can see us, young and intense and full of plans for our lives, gesticulating as we talked too loudly in the small booth with its cracked red vinyl benches and too-loud country music. We were both so young, with huge tortoiseshell glasses that were the style back then, and long, curly hair that we parted in the middle and tried to brush straight, and carefully frayed blue jeans. People sometimes mistook us for each other, but it was only because we both wore glasses and had freckles and curly reddish hair. I can still taste the lemon meringue, coconut custard, and blueberry pie we ordered, but there’s one thing I can’t remember, and now there are two more questions I want to ask you. What was the second pie you ordered that we shared, and is there pie in the sky when you die?
The last time I saw you, more than twenty years ago, we went to that restaurant that served only pie, somewhere west of the expressway. “They have two dozen kinds, and they’re all homemade,” you told me as you drove. “It’s a tiny place called Pie in the Sky. It’s so great. What are you going to order?”
“Lemon meringue and something else,” I said. “Probably coconut custard.”
“I’ll get blueberry and something else,” you said. “Then we can share.”
Our husbands tolerated our friendship and socializing with relatively good humor, often leaving the dinner table to watch television or talk about politics or sports while we exchanged recipes and shared our dreams, and then they were finally summoned back and thanked with homemade carrot cake (you) and lemon meringue pie (me) for dessert. We both liked to cook. Whenever we left work for a quick pizza lunch offsite, you gave me your cornmeal-dusted braided pizza crusts, and I gave you the cheese-laden tips of my slices. “A perfect friendship,” we agreed. It was a perfect friendship. Only one time did we talk about making our friendship something else, and we kissed once, but that was all. We were so young, and everything in life seemed possible, but we must have known that everything in life is never possible. Neither of us wanted to ruin our marriages and, quite possibly, our friendship, and so we exchanged the one kiss, smiled, said “That was nice,” and went on with our marriages and our friendship. We never mentioned it again.
Our friendship was a good thing. Do all good things come to an end, or is that just a saying? I wish I could ask you. After a few years in that city, my husband and I moved east and had two children, and soon after that your husband and you split up. You met and married your second husband, who had a child from a previous marriage, and the three of you moved further east than my family did. In those days before e-mail, we wrote letters and called and sent birthday gifts for several years, until we didn’t. Then, my only news of you was news from friends of friends of friends that told me you were working here or there and that you and your family were doing fine.
And then I heard that you weren’t fine. I wrote right away, and you replied immediately. “I’m doing as well as can be expected,” you wrote. “People have been so kind. A nerve block eased the pain. I actually don’t mind not having long hair anymore. Remember how we used to try to brush out the curls we both had? Now I love my curly wisps.”
Again I wrote back immediately, but you didn’t answer, and a few months later I heard that you were dead. That was two years ago. It still doesn’t seem real.
Born and raised in NYC, Ann Calandro is a medical editor, a writer, a mixed media collage artist, and a classical piano student.
Featured artwork: Tiny Flash Acrylic paint and spray painted acrylic Cuban/Puerto Rican American artist Carissa Diaz takes inspiration from the vibrant neon signs of San Francisco storefronts and the softness of the California landscape to create dynamic abstract paintings. Diaz engages in a material loop of overlapping lines and shapes in colorful acrylic while peeling away at each painting’s planar landscape to create ‘art that feels good.’