And yet, and yet… Laura was one of my best friends.
Our friendship evolved over the course of twenty-plus years. Laura knew me as a struggling writer working a full-time day job; I knew her first as a college student finishing her degree, then as a young artist struggling to get by in New York. We knew each other's highs and lows. When I finally had a breakthrough in my career, she celebrated my success. When Laura launched her own highly successful business as a photo researcher in the publishing industry, I was proud of her and amazed at her accomplishment.
(Oh, and you've probably seen her work on a bookstore shelf somewhere. Her last major project was Hillary Clinton's recent memoir.)
Anyway, there's more to it.
There's a click, a special connection, a like-mindedness. Politics, arts, entertainment, popular culture, humor, personal circumstances, regional history... it doesn't really matter what, I suppose. Only that you share a foundation on which to build a friendship, and you do. You share your hopes and dreams and fears, your successes and your failures, and inside jokes that pile atop one another until they comprise a private language of catch-phrases, gestures and glances. This can be perplexing or downright annoying to people who are not you, but you don't care.
But it can be charming, too. It warms my heart when I see a group of friends having fun, being silly and uninhibited, delighting in each other's company. Especially old friends. It takes work to sustain those kinds of friendship as you get older. Life pulls you in different directions. Time and distance take a toll; sometimes you simply drift apart. Laura never let that happen. I'd like to take some credit for it, but I honestly think the lion's share belongs to her. I'm a good and loyal friend, but I'm not as proactive as I'd like to be.
We talked about taking a trip overseas together for ages. A couple of years ago, we finally did it - Julie and I and Laura and her husband Glyn went to Spain together. We had so much fun; we came back with wonderful memories, a brand new stock of private catch-phrases, and plans to travel together again soon.
I'm so glad we finally did take a trip together. I'm so mad and sad that we'll never do it again.
This month, Julie and I are going to New York for a celebration of Laura's life. It will be good to laugh and cry and exchange memories with people who knew and loved her. But when we come home, there will still be a void in our lives. It is a void nothing will ever fill, for no one can take her place.
Laura, who loved yoga and tango and photography, silly nicknames, British comedies and Dancing with the Stars, Spanish tapas and single malt scotches; Laura, who loved beaches and sunbathing, spas and pedicures and massages; Laura, who was the youngest person I knew to love opera and saw Wagner's entire Ring Cycle at the Met more than once; Laura, who learned to love European football for her expatriate Liverpudlian husband's sake, is no more.
So I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately.