My Neighbor Friend

The woman living next-door is a friend. Our apartment building is a new build. It has apartments in various sizes. We both bought a two-storey apartment of the largest type. My apartment is bigger than hers. It has an extra room. But category-wise we are, well, in the same category, if on either end. Socially we’re in different stratospheres. She has a mini-Tesla, I drive Tesla. She has two children, boys, about 12 and 15 years old. I think I have two, a son and a daughter (mater certa est, but even a mother can’t be certain about numbers; not regardless of circumstance). Mine have moved out. They’ve finished school, they went to college. They have their own lives now. My friend is divorced. I’m a widow. I’m in love with my husband, as much as I was ten years ago, when he died. We would never have divorced. Given time we would have felt always to be owing that to ourselves and our children. I found out that my friend has a penchant for spiritualism. One day, when we came out of our apartments at the same moment, she told me that she was on her way to a necromancer class. She said it with an undertone of self-derision. Even if our acquaintance goes back just a few months and interaction has been intermittent since then, her instinct told her that I have no sympathy for that kind of nonsense. Sharing this information with me was unsolicited. But I was glad she had. During our brief encounters, and in online meetings of the Owners Association, my friend had struck me as a strong and independent character, a bold and decisive person, a leader; all of which I’m not. I felt awed by my friend. This information restored the balance. So I reacted forgivingly, saying something that included reference to adventure and inquisitiveness, and that I hoped she would enjoy class.

My neighbor friend is fat. She has a masculine paunch, which is the worst kind of fat on a woman. Her behind is verging on steatopygia. I’m not fat. I never was. I’m a 4. I’ve never been more than a 4. I’ve been less than a 4: a 2; a 0 in my twenties. A next time we met my friend said she had menstrual problems. This was in a convenience store, subprime, not the kind where one would typically run into someone of my social class. I happened to pass by it. It was warm. I thought a bottle of white wine would be nice when enjoying the evening sun on my balcony. And so I went in. I saw my friend browsing the vegetables section. It’s near the store’s entrance. For a moment I considered the option of pretending I had not seen her. But, aware that she must have noticed me (I stand out in the crowd), I thought this was risky. I didn’t know where the wine section was and searching for it we might suddenly find ourselves coming in from opposite directions in the same aisle. So, bravehearted (socially I’m a failure), I stepped up to my friend and asked her if she knew where I would find the wine. Wine, to me, is about the concept, not the actual product. In fact, I hate the taste of wine, and the alcohol contained in just half a glass knocks me flat out. I told her this. I said I don’t have a talent for addictions. I think I felt I should explain my entering a lower tier convenience store just to buy a bottle of wine. My friend smokes (but only outside of the house, and she keeps the stubs to throw them in a bin afterwards). She said Oh yes, you do, but you don’t know it. She said that lately, when having her period, she was bleeding hard and long. Her ob-gyn had suggested to have an IUS inserted to boost progesterone levels. But she had done her internet homework and concluded from her research that her estrogen levels must be too high. This made sense, she said, because these past months, due to stress (divorce, children, moving), she had been drinking too much. As her research bore out, this affected the liver’s capability of breaking down estrogen. She had immediately gone cold turkey on all alcohol. These doctors, she scoffed, they rather shoot up a woman with hormones than do some decent research and analysis. Yes, I concurred, they think a woman is a machine and hormones are its levers and switches. One has to be very careful with hormones, especially at our age, I added. I wasn’t serious about this. I’m very regular. I never have any trouble in this particular area, or in any other where physical health is concerned. I’m without age. She said that she was retaining fluid. I didn’t think it explained the potbelly, but, knowing that is exactly what she wanted to explain away, I said, yes it’s a thing, sometimes. I didn’t want to refer to menopause either. She might find that offensive.

Skirt by Antonio Marras

A package was delivered to me. It was a small cardboard box, completely weightless. It was for my neighbor friend. She hadn’t answered the doorbell. I accepted it on her behalf. She called at my door a couple of hours later. I gave her the box, which I had dropped in a chair without giving it another thought. I said that there could hardly be anything in it. Panties, she said. I could only get them online in my size. I order vibrators online, I said, unsure why I volunteered that information. The exquisite Lelo Ina Wave, the third vibrator I had purchased online over the past weeks, had been delivered the other day. Did I expect her to share similar intimate information? Did I feel that panties ordered online are a very intimate thing already, perhaps not less intimate than a vibrator, and that I should respond in kind? My friend stared at me dubiously. This may be a misinterpretation. She may have been silently confirming to be part of the women’s guild of vibrator users. We turned inside. I spent tons of money on interior design. But the inside of my house is a desert, a very cold desert. I don’t have the eye. I can’t make a home for myself. I’ve moved seven times in the past twelve years. Mere months after I’ve moved I feel that I’ve been put behind bars, that I must break out. I have been inside my friend’s house. It’s clean, warm and decorated with great taste. I saw a photo of my friend when she was younger. She was very pretty. Her name is the same as my daughter’s. A remarkable coincidence. I wondered if this is just the country of my exile.

As I’m making these notes I see my friend pass by my house. She walks with some difficulty. She is obese. She is a much better person than me. She is in control of herself and the lives that depend on her. I love her. She will be dead when I’ll be continuing my ageless life. That aside, I would donate my lungs and my liver to save her.

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