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FRIENDS

“The thing is, all of my friends who drove have passed away. Now I don’t have any more friends. The one friend I have living doesn’t drive. So if I was feeling sick, at 3AM, I’d call you, Gregor. But what would Emily say? Of course, she wouldn’t have to worry about me.”

Name: Marilyn Cote
Born: 1929

A year ago January, Marilyn was at Saint Francis Hospital. I went to visit. She jokes I’m her guardian angel. But the truth is, she’s mine.

Today, just before leaving work, Marilyn made sure I had the contact information for her niece-by-proxy, “You never know when something might happen,” she said.

We got to talking about death. It’s on her mind a lot, these days. So I asked about Paul. If she was surprised by his suicide. If she missed him.

“I can’t really say I miss Paul. We didn’t have that kind of relationship. You can have an acquaintances you like. I had a girlfriend I used to go to yard sales with. She was a friend of a friend. That’s how I knew her. I guess we did become friends,” she said. “But I always thought of her as an acquaintance.”

I always had a tough time with the question. Are we friends or friendly? It’s my stupid nature. I get attached to the people I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by.

When I heard Marilyn was at Saint Francis Hospital, alone, I didn’t drive there by choice. My car was compelled.

In the same way I care about Marilyn, I cared about Paul. I guess the difference is that Marilyn let me in. Paul rolled his eyes at me, pushed me away, diminished my importance, treated me the way the bullies of my youth treated me. Funny thing, it still hurt. I wanted to be liked.

My stupid, stupid nature.

“I was shocked. I really was shocked. It never occurred to me Paul would do something dishonest. I still can’t believe it. I know it’s true,” she said. “But I still can’t believe it.”

It ain’t easy, admitting you’ve been duped. Look at the world we live in. Celebrating all the wrong things. Admiring all the wrong people. Worshipping imaginary friends.

I was always told you’ve got a friend in Jesus. I believed it. I wanted to believe it. But I was wrong. We’re not friends. Turns out, at best, we’re friendly.

Marilyn is having tuna salad with blue cheese, greek olives and her own mixture of Ranch & 1000 Island.

“I worked for Paul. I was doing invoices. And other odd jobs. I was working in the office. I was doing daily sales. Paul was always nice. He was very nice to work for. I don’t know if you’d say friend or acquaintance,” she said. “We never did anything socially.”

We’ve never done anything socially. Marilyn broke two dates. I took it personally. It hurt. Both times it hurt. But I got over it. Rejection doesn’t scare me anymore. It encourages me. When I visited Marilyn at Saint Francis Hospital, she was hallucinating. She kept asking what all the people were doing in her apartment. They were doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit. She kept asking who broke into her apartment and put up those awful drapes. They were the drapes surrounding her hospital bed. She kept saying we should call the police. Funny thing, in the middle of the hallucination, as if it were nothing out of the ordinary, Marilyn accepted the reality of me being in her apartment.

And this is how I know we’re friends.