I find it almost unbearable to think that Helen lived on 19th Street and I lived on 5th Street all those years ago and we never knew it.
I'm sure I mind this more than she would because I needed a role model and there she was, someone from high school. Or there she wasn't. The only person briefly left from my life in high school was my deeply depressed, probably terminally lost and always mournful boyfriend who hadn't had a decent time of it and who did, thank you, give me his old enlarger which turned out to be a most useful present.
All my friends were either working freelance or teaching very young children or not doing much of anything except setting goals that they'd probably never meet. My exemplary friend, the one who had a loving husband, didn't have to work so she could write.
So, I would have benefited from knowing Helen who was a mid-wife. At least that's what I think now. Maybe then I was too caught in some strange web from the past that it would take me years to shake off and allow me to at least work marginally in shelters for the homeless. But knowing Helen might have given me an earlier wedge into that life. Maybe.
When we met in September, we started talking about people we might have known in common as soon as we got into her car after she picked me up at the bus station. Did you know Jeanne Lee? She did. Jeanne had been a close friend who had grown up with my daughter's father in the Bronx. Our daughters were close friends. I was enormously sad when I found out that she'd died in Mexico where she's gone for treatment for colon cancer. We'd lost touch, as often happened with Jeanne's travels, but I had never doubted that we'd see each other again.
And I'd met Helen's best friend through Jeanne, Maxine who was then married to a bass player, a sweet guy who Helen told me moved to Paris after they divorced. I'm sure I knew that anyway.
I never asked if she knew Bob Moses, a drummer who is now teaching at Berkley who I haven't seen in years, but is a great figure for young musicians.
I'd forgotten about (OH, NO, NO, NO, THIS WAS ENTIRELY WRONG. WRONG NAME, MISTAKE OF AGE? MISTAKE OF NOT KNOWING WHAT I WAS DOING...THE SENTIMENT WAS CORRECT, BUT NOT THE MAN) until I heard his music on the car this week. He's one of the guys I slept with just because he asked. I'm sure Helen wasn't doing that and that would have been a good role model because I was seriously out of control, a fact that no therapist seemed to be able to fix. I had no value to myself. Anyway, I don't particularly care if Helen had met him when we all lived more-or-less in the same area.
I'm extremely glad to have met Helen again. But I'm finding it all unbearably sad.
The other day I heard from some stranger on one of these sites and he remembered me from New York, remembered Krissy when she was three, had seen her father's exhibit of drawings in a small gallery somewhere downtown. He'd run into him recently at a convention and asked about Krissy who he hasn't seen in years. All those men who left their children behind as they went somewhere else, somewhere to start new lives that probably didn't amount to much. I actually feel sorrier for them, almost unbearably sorry, for what they missed out on. But I wish I didn't know he was somewhere, being asked about his daughter who he wasn't brave enough to be in contact with because he would have had to cope with some serious anger at having been abandoned.
Why are people so afraid of anger that they can't move through it to the other side?
Helen told me quite wonderful things about music, the way one thinks of it as shapes -- diamonds, rectangles, lines. As she was driving and talking, I was imagining those shapes in color. The diamond was red, the rectangle was yellow. She went on to talk more about music, something which clearly has an important place in her life now, something she was smart enough to dive into now that she's living in a farm way up in Maine, reaching back to a passion she'd had in high school and left to be useful and giving and engaged that now has become a way of building a fine community of like-minded musicians, an enriching occupation. I was really happy to hear that and very glad to meet her again.