What amazes me is the keen contrast, the devilish dichotomy, the quickening of shadows in sunlight. What amazes me is how quickly things can change. How one moment, one good moment, can be crammed with mundane joys, spilling over, leaking laughter. And how the very next moment can be opaque with uncertainty, spiky and mean. What amazes me is that these two moments can exist, side by side, unknowing neighbors, separated by a ruthless pinch of time.
This morning was the perfect example. This morning was business as usual. Husband and I stirred under the sheets, embracing the inevitability of a new November day. He popped up, took a shower. I lingered in bed, thinking and stretching and smiling. Smiling because my best friends from law school are here in town with their brand new baby girls. Smiling because it is another Friday, that day knitted with fibers of freedom and frolic. Smiling because things are good. Husband and I divided and conquered. He pulled Baby out of bed and I did the same with Toddler. We reunited in the hallway, a family of four, ready to conquer another day.
In the living room, we watched cartoons, sipped coffee and spilled it, played with toys, new and old. My mind danced back and forth between work and play, between to-do lists and the Halloween stickers on my pajama bottoms. Back and forth. Husband and I spoke in loving and unfinished sentences, juggling babies and ideas. Always juggling. And then I saw it. The red light on my BlackBerry. Blinking. Always blinking.
And so I grabbed it and checked my messages. There were the typical emails from Bergdorf’s and J. Crew and all of the other places that have me on their mailing list for some reason. And buried in there was an early morning email from my friend. My good friend who is very pregnant – 38 weeks pregnant – with her second child. I opened it. But it wasn’t from her. It was from her husband. In the email which was addressed to me and a handful of other friends, her husband informed us that my friend is in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. She has been diagnosed with viral pneumonia and it is very likely that she also has H1N1. I read these words, these quiet and lonely words laced with fear and information and defiance, splashed across my tiny screen and my heart dropped. I called my friend’s husband.
He answered. We talked for a while. He told me that my friend is very sick but is in capable hands, that the hospital staff are monitoring her and the baby very closely. I listened as he talked, my heart tearing a bit with each word. And as I listened, I grew eager, rabidly eager, to do something, anything, to help in some way. As I listened, I grew aware, painfully aware, that there is nothing I can do. But I said those words, cliched and heartfelt that escape us in times like these, Please let me know if there is anything I can do. Anything. And this man, this wonderful and loving husband and father, thanked me for my offer. He agreed to keep me posted. He thanked me for my concern.
I have spoken to my friend’s husband once since. It sounds like her condition has improved slightly and that she will spend at least another twenty-four hours in the ICU. It was good to hear that she is incrementally getting better. She will get better. She will. She and her baby will be just fine. They are in the hands of experts and shrouded in the love and prayers of so many.
But. But here I sit, alone at Starbucks, puttering away at my keyboard, utterly helpless. There is nothing I can do. I can cross my fingers. I can send good thoughts. I can call her husband at appropriate intervals. I can hope and then hope some more. And I will. And I can write. I can spill words and worry onto the page. I can arrange sentences on my screen to arrive on yours, asking you to keep my friend and her family in your thoughts – and in your prayers if you are someone who prays. These are things I can do. And they won’t make an iota of a difference, will they? No. If only. If only I could type and type and type and edit and edit and edit and make everything okay. If only.
What amazes me is the keen contrast, the devilish dichotomy, the quickening of shadows in sunlight. What amazes me is how quickly things can change. And now I wait, patiently, humbly, for the next moment to arrive, the brighter one. I wait for the moment in the not-too-distant future when I will hug my beautiful friend and her incomparable husband and their kids and celebrate health and happiness and love and life.