Tovah, my best friend’s girl


arianapaintWhen Caleb died I flew out to Santa Fe to help his fiance scatter his ashes.  Tovah picked me up at the airport.  She was a diminutive yet strong young woman, five years Caleb’s junior.  The daughter of a wealthy restaurant franchise owner, she was disowned when she announced her engagement to my best friend—a reserved and unassuming goyim from Scottsdale.

I always had a bit of a crush on Tovah, but acting on that impulse was out of the question.  The feeling was there, of course. But I’ve at times had a way of putting up a block on some women, though only when it was absolutely necessary. However, when Tovah picked me up at the airport, she looked so pretty it was as if she wasn’t even real.  It sounds strange to say so, but her grief had made her even more beautiful.  Seeing her dressed all in black, her hands folded in front of her hips, she made me wish I knew how to paint portraits the way Caleb had always done so effortlessly.

She had found his body in the shower.  Caleb had developed epilepsy after the two of us survived a head-on collision on I-10 the day after Christmas several years prior.  He had a seizure and fallen in the tub, drowning in bathwater.  The two of them were to be married in only a couple of weeks.

“How are you holding up?” I asked her, after our third Irish coffee.

“Oh, you know,” she said.  “I ain’t dead yet.”

We stayed up all night getting drunk in their kitchen.  The lighting was terrible.  Pictures of her and Caleb were on the refrigerator, kept up by psychobabble magnetic poetry.  It seemed everything in the house served as a sort of requiem for my best friend and the love of his life.  I missed him so much.

“What about the ballpark?” I asked, wondering where to scatter his remains.  “He always loved watching a game.”
“Not as much as you did, Knox.”

“That’s probably right” I replied, feeling slightly embarrassed.

We continued brainstorming until dawn when we eventually decided on a small sculpture garden just off of Canyon Road.  This is where Tovah had met him. He had been installing a sculpture of his made from pieces of refuse that he used to collect off the side of the road. Caleb was always good at making garbage into something worthy of art.  We used to joke that I was the opposite; I made masterpieces seem like total shit.

We woke up a few hours later.  It was Sunday and I could feel my pulse in the pit of my stomach— just another hangover to add to the list.  We got into her Volkswagen Rabbit, the seats freezing, and drove to the garden.  It was closed, so we jumped the fence and spent a few minutes wandering around aimlessly. Scattering the ashes, I felt it important that I say a few words.  “Here’s to a man who—”

“Knox, cut the bullshit,” she said.  “Here’s to a man.  We both loved him.  He’s dead now and the world is less for it.  Let’s get out of here.”

Dropping me off at the airport, saying goodbye, our eyes locked.  I wanted so badly to kiss her.  I could feel it from her, too.  Somehow, it felt like the right thing to do.  But we didn’t.  We just sat there and stared at one another, remembering our friend who we had both loved, knowing that even the passion of a kiss wouldn’t be enough to bring him back.

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