A friend of mine died this weekend. I don't know when exactly, or how. It's complicated, love in the time of internet. I'd never even met her, really, not face-to-face.
We were paired up in a random match on Words with Friends in early 2010. That's how it started, two strangers, but it turned out we had comparable game skills and so we played against each other again and again. I kept late hours, I've always been a night owl, and she asked in the side chat why I was always awake so late? I was so pregnant. I was having trouble sleeping.
We played and talked through G's due date, the snowpocalypse, his birth. We played through the middle of the night, his feedings, his colic. We played and chatted. G grew big and learned to sleep and then she was pregnant, insomniac, overdue, nursing, playing her turn at 2am. Her son D is two now.
We've been Facebook friends for years. She posted about picking up Indian takeout on Thursday, happy to be on the way home to her man and her little man. I haven't played Words with Friends much this week. I've been immersed in back-to-school's needs.
From her Facebook stream today, a message: "Love never fades. The Coming Home celebration for..."
I clicked through, wondering if her mom had the same name? But no. It's my dear friend, my midnight-oil confidante. I don't know whom I could ask or to whom I could offer condolences. I don't know anything except that she mattered to me. I don't know how to grieve this loss.
We pass so many panhandlers every day. The kids often ask, "do you have a dollar? Can we give something?" Sometimes I say yes, sometimes I say no, every time I feel guilty, whichever action I've taken. I don't know the proper way to handle seeing so many panhandlers. Am I supposed to help each one? Look away? I tell the kids (and it feels terrible as I say it): "we helped this person, and the next person will help the next person. That's the way the world turns."
But what do you do when you see the same panhandler every day?
In the middle of summer, a new panhandler appeared on our commute, a woman, early 20s, maybe, pregnant. As summer continues she is looking more sun-weathered, more gaunt, more pregnant. Her flip-flops are barely there, barely cushioning her from the asphalt. I've given her a dollar a few times. I want to offer to buy her a bottle of prenatal vitamins. But what if that's not what she sees as her need? I don't want to offend or I don't want to get involved or I something. I can't not look. She's going to have that baby just as it's getting really cold. I can't stop thinking about her.
The girls, my little women, they're in the school year now. Past the transition, past the wondering and worrying, busy with learning new classroom customs and new classmates' names. Things are not perfect, fears are still raw, joys are unbridled, there is no equilibrium. School will be okay but we need routine, we need to find the comforts, the familiarities, we need the intensity of so much emotion to simmer lower. Everything's a popping cauldron and the thick foggy fumes are making me so drowsy.