Zoe & Sophia Struggle as they Sally Forth in the Shocking and Shimmering Illumination of Now
Zoe and Sophia are two single women, BFFs for thirty years, and months ago they found themselves unexpectedly cast into a world of chaos and redefinition after decades of being faithful wives to George and Marty. They’ve heard and are grateful for the advice from all who were willing to help them. But the time for advice has passed as they launch into a new phase as the Sublime Consumers of the Lightness of Being. Here is their final adventure of the first “season” of their re-creation.
Tiny white lights strung around budding branches winked as a gusty wind blew through the outdoor café at dusk. Some happy-hour patrons danced to the band’s music booming from the small stage. Several people wore festive masks, which waitresses placed on tables when they delivered drinks. Others laughed as they sat leaning intimately into one another. Longing eyes traveled up and down newcomers who walked into the café on the warm May evening. Self-conscious young women stood in clusters, playing with their hair, picking at their clothes. False bravado spilled from the lips of young men as they spoke too loudly and swaggered in circles around women they were too timid to approach. Young and old sensed the sultry nights of summer to come, nights of expectation, nights that would stir people to abandon themselves to the white heat of passion, grasping for completion through connection. Suddenly, a second, prolong gust of wind blew in showers, and as with the end of a film, the music stopped, people ran for shelter, and the sensuous spell snapped shut.
Zoe and Sophia leapt from their seats then huddled with the rest of the crowd inside the café
“I’m hungry,” said Zoe, tapping Sophia’s arm. “Let’s go get Mexican.”
“Nothing,” said Sophia.
“You look like you’re gonna cry.”
“Nah. I’m just tired.”
“Do you wanna go home,” said Zoe.
“To what? To a house filled with packed boxes, rolled up rugs and furniture lined up, ready to be loaded into a U-Haul?” Go home? I have no home. I have no marriage. I have no definition. I have no life that I recognize. I have only ghosts that scream at me from the packed boxes, scepters haunting me from an identity that no longer exists. My life is shit, Zoe.”
“Fuck sake, Sophie. Buck up. Instead of thinking about what you’ve lost, try focusing on things you have to be grateful for, things that give you joy.”
“That’s the worst part, Zoe. I might have lost my joy.”
“Well, you’re gonna have to recapture it.”
“I know. I’m just feeling sorry for myself.”
“Sophie, you’re still grieving. And you start a whole new wave of it every time that prick Marty re-enters your life. I can’t believe he showed up on your doorstep again. Well, at least your move to Florida will end that cycle.” Zoe was referring to Sophia’s husband who walked out of the marriage eight months before in the throes of an affair with his predatory girlfriend, Fugly, an affair Sophia finally forced Marty to confess. Twice Marty came home since then, only to flee back to Fugly as soon as he and Fugly patched up their blowout.
“It’s not only about Marty crashing into my life again, Zo. Last week I didn’t fall for his shit. He cried for hours, bemoaning the life he cast aside, and I comforted him through every word and stomached the self-pity he spewed. But do you know that he actually had the audacity to blame me for the dissension with Fugly?”
“Yeah, you told me already.”
“I’m so glad I slept at your house for the time he was at home.”
“But honestly, Zo, apart from Marty’s recent bullshit, I think what unhinges me has more to do with the change of seasons. I keep sensing last summer, when the project was still going on, and I knew Marty was having an affair, but he lied about it. I was not only tortured by his cruelty, I suffered a complete emotional collapse, and it’s taken me months to crawl out of the black hole. But now, I feel as if I’ve fallen back in.”
Sophia was referring to a project Fugly approached Marty to become part of two years before. Marty told Sophia that Fugly had since admitted that she fell for him “on first sight.” So the project, building for Marty a state-of-the-art sports facility, which would have fulfilled Marty’s life-long dream, became the vehicle to hook Marty, and Fugly succeeded. Although Fugly’s wealthy husband offered to finance the project, his resources couldn’t compare to those of his father. So, Fugly’s legendary father-in-law, Famous Father, put up the money. However, when Famous Father learned of the affair, he ended the project, and Fugly moved out of the marital home, leaving behind a husband and three young children, whom she saw on a visitation schedule. But since Fugly signed no prenup when she married, she still enjoyed living lavishly on her husband’s money. And so did Marty.
“Sophie, let’s go to Ixtapa Cantina and flirt with the Mexican waiters. That always cheers us up.”
A few minutes later the women swept into their favorite Mexican restaurant. Since Zoe and Sophia were regulars, the maitre‘d clamored for dirty dishes to be cleared from their favorite booth, and two Margaritas were placed with a flourish in front of the women before they had time to order.
“Should we toast to your divorce being final,” asked Sophia.
“Yes, I think we should,” said Zoe. “But you know, I take no pleasure in hurting George, although it does feel good to be free finally.”
“Do your kids know yet?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t spoken to them about it, but George might have.”
“Do the kids know you’re moving back to Boston?”
“What’s their reaction?”
“Everyone’s pretty worried about what will happen to George.”
“I feel for them,” said Sophia, “but I guess that’s up to George to figure out.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Have you set a moving date?”
Just then Zoe’s eyes misted up.
“What’s wrong, Zo?”
“Whenever I think about us being so far apart it makes me cry.”
“I know. Me too.”
“I plan to move right after you leave for Florida. There’s no way I want to be in New Hampshire without you here. Sophie, won’t you reconsider moving to Boston with me instead of moving to Florida?”
“Zo, I just don’t think Boston is far enough away from Marty. Plus you know I hate winters. I’m a Californian, not a Yankee like you.”Just then Jose, a new waiter the women didn’t know well, appeared to take their orders.
After ordering, Zoe said, “But in Boston you would be so much closer to your kids.” Zoe was referring to Sophia’s fabulous son Colin who lived in Boston and to her amazing daughter Poppy, son-in-law Fonzi, and granddaughter Lily who lived in New Hampshire near Sophia and Zoe.
“It breaks my heart to think about leaving them, Zo, but I’m running for my life. And that house in Florida just feels right. From the first moment I saw it in January, the place called to me. It’s exactly what I felt the first time I saw my house here. I remember looking at the arbors over the outside doors, crowded with wisteria and roses, and I just knew it was meant to be my home.”
“Will you put up arbors over the doors in the Florida house?”
“Yeah, but I’ll load them with bougainvillea.”
“Promise me you’ll visit often.”
“As often as I can. Hey, those two guys at the bar are checking us out. Don’t turn around.”
Sophia turned around. Then she turned back to Zoe.
“What do you mean?”
“Not worth the effort. Why would we bother meeting men anyway? Neither of us is gonna be living here a week from now, Zo.”
“Good point.” Just then Juan, their favorite waiter, placed two more Margaritas on the table even though their first drinks were still nearly full. Zoe gave Juan a questioning look, and he turned and pointed to the two men at the bar. Zoe looked over at the men and smiled. Sophia didn’t turn around but watched Zoe raise her hand to invite the men over. Sophia grabbed her hand, but it was too late. The men were already on their way. Sophia glared at Zoe as she shoved Sophia over to make room for the men in the circular booth.
Sophia threw the men a lame smile as they sat down, and then her nerves flared up, and she reached across the table for her glass of water. Unfortunately, her hand bumped the fresh Margaritas, dumping them into the laps of the newcomers. In a panic, Sophia grabbed her napkin, jumped up and ran to the other side of the booth. She began sopping the fluid from the men’s pants with one hand while waving with the other for Juan to come help clean up the mess. Juan, accustomed to Sophia’s spills, leapt toward the table with bar towels. But by that time, Sophia was on her knees, head bent into the lap of one of the men, so she didn’t see Juan. Just as he reached the table, Sophia stood up in Juan’s path, tripping Juan, who fell across the table and landed with his head in Zoe’s lap.
“Huh, Sophie? Really?” said Zoe shaking her head as she looked down at Juan. She was afraid Juan might have bumped his head on the table so hard that he passed out between her legs.
“Sorry, Zo,” said Sophia quietly, trying to regain her composure.
Just then a stunning, young pregnant Mexican woman ran up to the table crying and rambling in Spanish. She glared at Zoe and tugged on Juan’s leg.
In English she said, “What have you done to my Juan?”
Zoe stared at her in horror as the woman reached out and pulled Zoe’s blond hair. Zoe tried to roll Juan off of her lap as he struggled to stand up.
“You are trying to steal my Juan,” shrieked the woman, “Don’t touch him.” Between being shoved by Zoe and pulled by his wife, Juan finally managed to stand. He apologized profusely and hustled his wife from the table.
As Juan staggered off, the heads of the two men dropped downward, their eyes glued to their wet crotches. Pretending as if nothing had happened, Zoe greeted them brightly. The men looked up into Zoe’s smiling face but were silent. Just as Zoe was about to launch on her usual ploy of asking the men all about themselves, Jose placed two large plates of food in front of the women. Zoe ignored hers and kept talking, but Sophia dug in, thinking that eating might erase the vision of her mishap. Zoe leaned into the men pouring on every ounce of charm she could muster. Sophia’s cheeks filled to capacity as she shoveled an entire tamale into her mouth. The men gave each other the look then in unison stood and reached out to shake hands with Zoe and Sophia, telling the women it was nice to have met them.
“Ni do mee you do,” Sophia boomed with a smile as gobs of tamale shot out of her mouth and landed on the wet crotch of the man standing closest to her. She watched the blob stick for a minute before it fell to the floor. Sophia’s teeth were coated in green tomatillo salsa which dribbled down her chin. She tried to wipe it away with her napkin, but her hair was plastered to her chin, so she used her hand to whip back her hair and then reached out for a shake. Both men looked at her green fingers and quickly withdrew their hands, waving instead, as they backed away from the table then fled out the door.
“That went well,” said Sophia.
“Not too bad,” sighed Zoe.
“Did you catch their names?”
“Fuck sake, Sophie, did you hear me catch their names?”
“Hey, it’s just as well. I need to get to Barnes & Noble before it closes at ten.”
“What do you need there?”
“I gotta check out the DVD bargain table. I have now watched every episode of The L Word. Twice.”
“Does this mean you’re off your lesbian kick?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“For awhile there you were consumed by all things lesbian.”
“I was not. Those characters kept me company in the middle of the night. I can’t concentrate to read when I awake nearly hysterical. Before I discovered DVDs of television shows, I would just lie for hours in the dark obsessing on Marty.”
“What did you obsess about?”
“Sometimes I pictured him locked between Fugly’s stumpy, misshapen thighs with the purple pimples all over them. He used to tell me how much he loved my long, lean legs. I wondered what he said to her about her thighs. Then I thought about him lying on his pillow and staring at her. She looks like Yeti or some other mythological humanoid creature. I would hear her deep, masculine voice whisper Hallmark sentiments in his ear. And I wondered why he picked her. Then I thought about how he was having his affair with her while I had major surgery and was laid off from my job as a reporter. Of course, then I remembered that she’s younger and rich. At other times I looked over at the hole Marty punched in the wall last summer as he screamed ‘Why can’t you fucking trust me.’ Often I pictured him sneaking out of our bed to have email exchanges with Fugly as soon as he thought I was asleep. Then I thought about the hundreds of text messages they sent to each other when we took Lilly to Europe on vacation last summer, especially the ones he sent at two-thirty in the morning on our wedding anniversary. Then I thought….”
“Enough, Sophie. I get the gist. Hurry up. You’re right. We do need to get to the bookstore before it closes.”
“Well, you asked. Do you wanna hear more?”
Zoe dodged the question by looking around for Juan to bring the check. He was nowhere in sight, but his wife paced back and forth like a livid lioness, guarding the kitchen door.
In Barnes & Noble Sophia found the boxed sets of four seasons of The Closer, at fifty percent off. She snagged them, buying her sanity and a whole new stable of imaginary friends.
“What’s that smell?” asked Sophia on the drive home from Portsmouth.
“Sparky’s in the back. He had an accident.” Sparky was Zoe’s stroke-impaired yellow lab. His unfortunate stroke caused not only incontinence, but the poor thing walked sideways and could not manage stairs or stress.
“Can you sleep at my house tonight, Zo. I don’t wanna be alone.”
“Sure. Do you have any Nutella and Chex Mix to eat in bed?”
“Hello. Is Fugly ugly? Of course I do.”
The minute Zoe and Sophia walked through the door of Sophia’s house, Tolstoy, Sophia’s huge Maine Coon cat hissed at Sparky, who tried to hide behind the women. Sparky pretended to ignore the insult and simply sniffed, as he jutted his chin in the air and rolled his eyes at Voltaire, Sophia’s Border collie. Sparky wondered why Tolstoy had to be such a bastard to him right off the bat, and Voltaire was inclined to agree that Tolstoy did have a short fuse. Voltaire stood up to get some loving from his precious Sophia then he walked over to Tolstoy and herded him into the living room, hoping to cool him down. Sparky, who wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree, thought the other animals were going off to play without him, so he followed them into the living room. That pissed off Tolstoy so much that he took a running leap and landed on Sparky’s back. Sparky yowled and because his stress and incontinence went hand-in-hand, three large turds plopped involuntarily from his bung hole.
“God almighty. There’s that smell again,” cried Sophia.
“I’ll clean it up,” said Zoe as she dashed to the kitchen for cleaning supplies.
“Voltaire can sleep downstairs with Sparky tonight, and Tolstoy can stay upstairs with us. It might be my imagination, but I think there’s friction between them.”
“Could be,” said Zoe absently as she flushed Sparky’s mess down the toilet then headed back to the kitchen. Sparky slunk sideways behind her, wishing he were home alone with his beautiful Zoe instead of stuck here with that bitch Sophia and her ill-tempered cat. Although, when he thought about it, he was pretty happy about spending the night with his best bud, Voltaire.
Sparky stood still a minute in the kitchen after Zoe went back into the dining room. He listened carefully to make sure no one was coming, and then he shoved his face through the swinging doors and slipped into the summer kitchen, where Tolstoy’s cat food and kitty litter lived. It’s hard to tip-toe after a stroke, but as quietly as he could, Sparky snuck up to Tolstoy’s dish and inhaled the kibble. Emboldened, he pranced over to the kitty litter, stuck in his paw, and shuffled the cedar shavings around until he found several cat crap delicacies just waiting to be eaten. Half way through his feast he froze in fright.
“Sparky,” called Zoe. “Where are you?”
Tolstoy knew damn well Sparky’s whereabouts and bolted from Voltaire’s side, racing toward the kitchen. Fearing exposure, Sparky began loping sideways, back toward the dining room. Unfortunately, Zoe and Sophia were standing in their path looking at something on Sophia’s laptop screen, and neither the cat nor the dog paid attention to that fact. Sparky ran headlong into both women from one direction, and Tolstoy tried to leap over them from the other, but he didn’t make it. As a result Zoe and Sophia toppled to the floor in their clumsy attempts to get out of the way of the collision.
“Fuck sake,” said Zoe as she struggled to her feet, “Let’s just go to bed.”
“Ok, Zo,” said Sophia, rubbing the bump on the back of her head.
Upstairs the women changed into night clothes then Zoe perused Sophia’s collection of DVDs of shows, most of which Sophia had never watched until after they went off the air. Zoe dismissed Sex and the City, having seen every episode multiple times. She declined Foyle’s War, Nash Bridges, Prime Suspect, and The Closer because unlike Sophia, Zoe wasn’t a fan of police shows. That left the six seasons of The L Word, which Zoe was so sick of hearing about, she could puke. Without selecting anything, Zoe climbed in bed next to Sophia.
“What do wanna do,” Zoe asked.
“I’m not premiering The Closer until tomorrow night. Let’s watch The L Word.”
“NO,” said Zoe.
“We could go on-line with the Webcam and see if any guys wanna watch us dance.”
“Nah. That’s not so appealing anymore.”
Sophia thought for a moment and chucked. “You’ve had quite a journey over the past eight months, haven’t you? You started your on-line dating the same week Marty and I split, right?”
“Yeah, I did. But I’m not doing much of that anymore.”
“Do you miss it, Zo?”
“Unless I’m beading jewelry, I get anxious and sorta lonely, except when I’m with you.”
“Hum. Why did you slow down with the men thing?”
“It stopped feeling good.” Zoe looked pensive for moment then asked, “Do you think I was acting whorish all those months?” Sophia laughed so hard that she snorted. Zoe looked offended. “Nice response, Soph.”
“Power down, Trigger. I’m laughing because you are so far from a ‘whore,’ you have to invent a new word for ‘far.’”
“Once you left George, your search for men came from a very old place.”
“You’ve spent much of your life trying to fill that gaping hole left by your father’s death. On some level, you’re still that vulnerable eight-year-old girl drenched in sorrow. So, whenever you’re lonely, you fall right back into that hole.
“Well, at least now,” said Zoe. “I’ve discovered all the things I don’t want in a man.”
“And that’s the beauty of growth. You’re not willing to sell yourself short anymore. Hand me the Nutella and a spoon please,” said Sophia as she pushed “play” on the remote. Up popped an episode of The L Word.
“Fuck sake. Do we have to watch this?” asked Zoe as she tossed back a handful of super spicy Chex Mix.”
“You know, if you smear Nutella on the pretzels from the Chex Mix, it’s a good combo,” said Sophia. “Hey, look at that. This is the episode when Bette goes off to a Buddhist monastery after she cheated on Tina seven years into their love affair.”
Zoe watched for a minute then put her chocolate covered spoon and the jar of Nutella back on the bedside table, next to Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart. Pema was an American Buddhist writer Zoe and Sophia adored. “Sophie, do you think lesbians deal with their love and loss differently than anyone else,” she asked, opening the ragged book.
“Nope. People are people. Love and loss are love and loss. That’s why I like this show. It portrays archetypical human behavior, but emphasizes a female point of view.”
“Yeah, I guess,” said Zoe, distracted as she lay on her side, with her head bent into the book. A few minutes later Zoe asked, “Do you mind if I read you a couple of passages?”
“Go ahead,” said Sophia as she clicked “pause” on the remote.
Zoe began reading:
In all kinds of situations we can find out what is true simply by studying ourselves in every nook and cranny, in every black hole and bright spot, whether its murky, creepy, grisly, splendid, spooky, frightening, joyful, inspiring, peaceful, or wrathful. We can just look at the whole thing….When we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe….We discover that everything is awake and everyone…is equally precious and whole and good. When we regard thoughts and emotions with humor and openness, that’s how we perceive the universe.
To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes….The more we relate to others, the more quickly we discover where we are blocked, where we are unkind, afraid, shut down. Seeing this is helpful, but it is also painful. Often, the only way we know how to react is to use it as ammunition against ourselves. We aren’t kind. We aren’t honest. We aren’t brave….But when we apply the instruction to be soft and nonjudgmental to whatever we see right at that very moment, then this embarrassing reflection in the mirror becomes our friend….That’s the beginning of growing up.
As long as we don’t want to be honest and kind with ourselves, then we are always going to be infants. When we begin just to try to accept ourselves, the ancient burden of self-importance lightens up considerably. Finally, there’s room for genuine inquisitiveness, and we find we have an appetite for what’s out there.
“Well, that’s pretty deep,” said Sophia as she toyed with the remote. “You know what’s strange? I remember reading that material right after my marriage fell apart. When I hit the paragraph about always being an infant until I learned to be kind and honest with myself, I was horrified. I hated reading it. Now, it doesn’t feel so threatening to me.”
“That’s interesting,” said Zoe. “I guess you’ve made some progress yourself in the past eight months.”
“Have I? It’s hard to know.”
“You’ve spent a ton of time alone writing, being introspective, foraging around in every aspect of yourself, swimming in and out of the black hole. You’ve also slowly detached from Marty and the horridness he put you through.”
“Well, a little maybe. I guess if I’ve done anything, I’ve rediscovered myself as my own best friend by accepting who I am and being kinder to myself, sometimes. On good days I’ve tried to live more in the moment, more compassionately and spend less time grasping and fixating on things outside of my control, but on bad days, not so much.”
“Yeah. That’s the piece that fades in and out for me too.”
“Well, at least we are more aware of the ways we don’t help ourselves, Zo.”
“That’s true. Speaking of help, could you hand me the Chex Mix.”
“Ok, Zoe, but only if you’ll release me from the burden of this conversation and let me go back to The L Word.”
“Never mind. I’m going to sleep.”
Just then a text blinged on Sophia’s phone. She opened the message, but it was blank. Then her eyes widened.
“What the fuck?”
“Fugly just sent me a blank text.”
Two more texts messages came in, and they too were blank. Then Sophia’s phone rang. When she answered it, Fugly hung up. It rang again, and again Fugly hung up.
“What the fuck. Why is she calling and texting me at this hour of the night?”
“Maybe you should text Marty and find out what’s going on.”
Before Sophia could text Marty, six more blank messages came in.
“Never mind,” said Sophia, ” They must be having another blow-out. He’s probably sleeping in his car again. Why that Yeti troll wants to draw me in is a mystery, but then again, she has no boundaries. I told you eventually they’d eat each other’s faces off. That’s what happens when you put two acute narcissists together.”
“Are you gonna text Marty or what?”
“Maybe, and I feel like telling him not to bring his flaccid dick here to cry and bemoan the chaos he created. His selfishness amazes me. Oops. What would Pema say?”
Zoe opened the book again to the turned down page.
“You’re supposed to be soft and nonjudgmental to whatever you see right at this very moment.”
“Crap. That’s such a tall order,” said Sophia.
“Just watch your show.”
“Okay, Zo,” said Sophia as she set her phone on the bed stand.
A few minutes later, Zoe rolled over and tapped Sophia’s arm. “Hey, did you know our names mean something?”
Sophia pushed “pause,” and looked over at Zoe. “Ahh, no. I thought you were sleeping.”
“I was for a minute, but I keep forgetting to tell you this.”
“Tell me what, Zo?”
“What my therapist told me.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“About our names,” said Zoe. “They mean something.”
“How does your therapist know my name?”
“I talk about you all the time. Don’t you talk about me to your therapist?”
“Yes, I do,” said Sophia. “Is there a point here somewhere?”
“Zoe means life and Sophia means wisdom.”
“Is that a Buddhist thing, Zo?”
“No, you moron, it’s Greek.”
“Hum,” said Sophia as she pushed “play.”
A few mornings later Sophia awoke and looked out of the french doors in her bedroom. She gazed at the mist hovering above the lake behind her house. The rising sun cast a mauve slash across the sky as Sophia listened to the few birds willing to sing so early. Sophia lifted her head for a moment then lay back down, crying quietly. She thought about the beauty surrounding her and felt shame that she could not sustain a joy in its midst. She thought about her children and granddaughter and her pets, trying to find a warm place to hold onto inside. Even the thought of Zoe’s smiling face could not distract Sophia long enough to grab hold of a peace that would save herself from plunging downward. Then her mind wandered to the anger that awakened her in the night and shook her ragged until she finally fell into a fitful sleep. Doubt drilled her raw as she questioned the perilous choice she was making to walk away from everyone she loved, from everything familiar, from all sources of comfort.
Only the day before, she rejoiced in her life, working hours in her gardens, in the bright sunshine, under an azure sky. But she lingered too long, tried to take too much succor from the earth she spent years shaping into a masterpiece of color and form. At dusk she hurried inside, just after realizing that she would miss the blues of June, as she called many of her favorite blue flowers, like delphiniums, which bloomed only in June. And from that moment on, nothing could distract her from the misery that rose up, wrapping its dangerous arms around her, holding her so close that it took her breath.
Guilt too enfolded her as she thought about people in the world who suffered from truly terrible catastrophes and deprivation, and that she merely suffered because Marty had thrown her away in his gluttony for adulation, wealth, and someone who would mirror his vanity as virtue. But in the end, Sophia knew that suffering was incomparable, and she struggled to remind herself of Victor Frankl’s ideas in Man’s Search for Meaning, that suffering could give her life meaning, if only she could suffer with nobility through self-transcendence. But Sophia did not feel noble; she felt small, selfish, and willfully blind.
As the sky lightened outside, Sophia closed her eyes and let time slip away while she roamed through every mantra and prayer she used when she was too dark inwardly to appreciate the wonder of her life. Some mantras were long, some were short phrases, but none could channel meaning enough to dislodge her ennui. Voltaire and Tolstoy whined and scratched to go outside, but Sophia lay motionless, as if her limbs were too heavy for her mind to move them. After a couple of hours Sophia finally got out of bed long enough to use the bathroom and let the animals out. But no force could propel her downstairs, where work on her manuscript awaited, where she could get food or answer the phone she purposely left in the kitchen the night before. She knew she’d reached a place in the present moment where there were no more words, nothing left to say about the life that was ripped from her, and the life she was walking into.
Zoe phoned Sophia several times that morning. She also sent text and Facebook messages. Then she began to worry. Finally, at noon she drove the five miles to Sophia’s house. When she walked into the kitchen, Zoe noticed dirty dishes and pans strewn on every surface, so uncharacteristic of Sophia. As she walked through the dining room and living room, she was appalled to see clothes, books and papers heaped on chairs and spilling out of boxes into piles on the floor. Zoe called out but no one answered. Upstairs, she strode into Sophia’s bedroom, but Sophia was nowhere in sight. Then she heard whimpering and walked over to the unmade bed to investigate. Zoe pulled back the covers and found Sophia rolled in a ball, lying crossways at the bottom of the bed.
“Fuck sake, Sophie, it is afternoon. Get up.”
“What are doing?”
“Get up, Sophie. You’re as scary as a Stephen King movie.”
“I am up.”
“Bullshit. Get out of bed.”
“What’s goin on, honey?” asked Zoe, her voice softening.
“NOTHING,” shouted Sophia.”
Losing her patience, Zoe grabbed Sophia’s legs and began dragging her off the bed. “Let’s go, girlie. You need a shower.”
“Don’t ask. Listen to me, Sophie. You are moving to Florida day after tomorrow. You have a lot of shit to do before then. It looks as though you’ve unpacked more than you’ve packed.”
“Can we go to the beach, Zo?”
“Fuck no. You don’t have time. Colin and Poppy and their friends will be here tomorrow to help you pack up the U-Haul. Sophie, you can’t quit right before the finish line.”
“I thought you didn’t want me to move?”
“I don’t, but that’s about me. I want you to move if that’s what you want. I know you fear that if you stay anywhere near Marty, you’ll lose your mind, assuming you haven’t already. Look, if you want, I’ll stay with you right until you drive out of here. Now, get in the fucking shower.”
“Okay,” said Sophia as she stripped off her nightgown and turned on the water. “You know, there’s this Pema quote I haven’t thought about in a long time.”
“What is it?”
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation, can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
“Do you see your move as a form of annihilation?”
“Yes, annihilation of everything familiar, the closeness with my family, my relationship with you, my home, my gardens. All for what?”
“Your sanity and an affirmation that you can can survive.”
“Is it worth it?”
“Ask yourself that, Sophie.”
“I dunno. What about you, Zo? Do you have the feeling that your choice to leave George was a form of annihilation? I mean, it’s odd that you and I are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, and you often seem just as depressed as I am even though you had a choice about ending your marriage, and I didn’t. Why do we both feel so lost at times?”
Zoe just starred at her angrily. “Sophie, shut up and take a shower. I don’t wanna talk about this right now.”
Sophia glared at Zoe and whispered, “Why are you here anyway? I was content in my bed.”
“Bullshit. You were morose.”
“How the fuck do you know–and why are you such a bitch?”
“Look who’s talking?”
“You picked the fight, Zoe, not I?”
“Yeah, right. Why is it that you need to analyze everything to death?”
“Fuck you,” said Sophia then she guffawed sarcastically as she slammed into the shower and tugged the curtain closed. When she finished showering, Sophia dried off, put on a bikini and breezed from the bathroom without a word. Zoe stared at her, shocked. In the thirty years Zoe had been Sophia’s best friend, she had never seen Sophia fail to rub lotions or oils over her body after a shower. Nor did Sophia blow dry her hair or moisturize her face. And then Sophia did something she’d never done to Zoe before.
Sophia refused to speak or make eye contact with Zoe. She pushed past her old friend, opened the kitchen door, and walked into the courtyard then stretched out, face down on a chaise lounge. The hot sun transfixed her as she lay very still. She didn’t cry or speak or acknowledge Zoe in any fashion. And if there was one thing that could send Zoe spiraling downward into despair, it was to be shunned. Zoe sat for a few minutes, trying to get Sophia’s attention by prodding her and saying things to make her laugh. But finally, as tears streamed down her face, Zoe climbed into her car and drove away.
Zoe and Sophia did not speak the rest of the day. Zoe tried calling Sophia the next morning, but Sophia didn’t answer. By mid-afternoon Sophia’s family and friends formed a chain, lifting furniture and boxes into the U-Haul truck. Sophia busily cleaned each space they cleared. Her mind was numb apart from the expression “I’m moving on,” which drummed in her brain. “Marty has moved on,” she told herself. Then she heard other voices in her mind ask, “But if he has, why does he keep telling me he loves me? Why does he circle back to me when he needs comfort?” “Why does he cry each time he mentions the regret he feels about everything he’s lost?” Sophia’s inner voice, the one way deep down knew the answers to these questions. She knew that Marty did and said these things only so long as he felt insecure. The moment he gained ground again, like a little harpy, he scampered away kicking up dirt in his wake. “MOVE ON,” she began to shout inwardly as dust billowed around her. “MOVE ON,” as each box found a space in the truck. You cannot care what Marty thinks or wants or feels. You are moving on.
That evening Sophia was surrounding by her beloved children and granddaughter. She knew this was the last time laughter and music would ring for her from the home she loved so dearly. Zoe was at her home, also surrounded by her children and grandsons, who had come up from Boston to relax in the country for the long holiday weekend. Lobsters and corn on the cob steamed in both kitchens as the two families prepared their traditional New England feasts. Throughout the evening Zoe and Sophia thought about each other, but both dismissed the temptation to be in touch. Finally, at midnight Sophia texted Zoe to say she was sorry for shunning her. But Zoe was asleep, so she did not hear the message come in.
As the gray fingers of dawn crept across the sky, Sophia stood in the shower, hoping the water would drown out the sound of her sobs. Zoe awoke suddenly, thinking she heard someone crying. Panicked, she jumped from her bed and wandered through her house looking for the source of the noise. But everyone was sound asleep.
Two hours later, Sophia stood hugging and kissing her loved ones goodbye, and then climbed into the truck. Just as she started it up, Zoe flew into the circular driveway, and skidded to a halt inches behind Sophia’s truck.
“Noooo, Sophie. Don’t goooo,” wailed Zoe as she bounded from her car and ran to Sophia’s window. “We can’t possibly know the sublime lightness without each other.”
Sophia cast lost eyes downward at Zoe. “I’m glad you came, and I’m sorry I hurt you. I love you.”
Rain clouds passed overhead, spraying mist across Zoe’s face. The clouds then parted, revealing a wedge of blue sky. Zoe bent her body in sobs. Then she stood and held up her arms. “Sophie,” she beseeched, “It’s not too late to change your mind. Nothing says you have to move away. Stay. Please stay with me. We’ll move to Boston together. You can’t leave.”
Sophia stared straight ahead and put the truck in gear. Slowly it rolled down the long driveway. Zoe watched in despair and disbelief. Suddenly, the brake lights shone red then went black then red again then….
Since life’s adventures run in cycles, it is anticipated that a new cycle of adventures will emerge for Zoe and Sophia. Until then “reruns” of their adventures will be posted here for anyone who wants to know the story from the beginning .
Thank you to everyone who sent advice, and special thanks to Dan Cartier for his masterful operation of this blog, to James Harley, artist, for his endearing graphics and editorial work, and to Samai Cartier for being the impetus and my inspiration every day of her life.
Julie K. Knight