Texas was wonderful and horrible and magical and dreadful, and in the end, I decided to leave, at least temporarily.
The weather was fantastic- I didn’t even mind the summer heat, which makes pencils melt and good fairies ill-tempered. It was great for my Fibromyalgia.
The people of the Lone Star State- at least the ones I met- are in a category all their own. Being there was like being in a foreign country, full of crazy, colorful citizens whom, overall, I found to be tough and independent and uniquely nutty and kind. I forged more friendships (and did more socializing) in my ten months there than I did in seventeen years in Arkansas.
But Arkansas is where I’ve returned. Texas sort of scared me. It felt too big for me, and ultimately, I felt ill-equipped to handle myself there. Sometimes I wonder if I’m equipped to handle myself anywhere anymore. More on Texas later.
My children are in Arkansas, and my daughter is pregnant. I want to hang around in the background here in case she needs me. I want to be near my son, in case he decides that shooting pool with his mother might be a fun thing to do. I felt that it would be easy to find a permanent position, since the unemployment rate here is low, and so is the cost of living.
Life is often schizophrenic for me. There always seems to be beauty and miracles in even the most dismal situations. I came here without a home or a job, and just enough money in my pocket for gas to get here. At first, I stayed at my daughter’s, but she has a one-bedroom apartment, and there wasn’t enough room for her hormones and mine. I quickly realized that I needed to find some alternate digs, and fast. Frantically, I looked for work, submitting resumes and applying to temp agencies, to no avail (although recently that has changed).
There’s something about the weather here that made my Fibromyalgia kick in and go into overdrive. It changed from background noise to blasting, full-tilt amplification throughout my body. Many days I wonder if I’ll ever be fully functional again, physically or mentally, because being in constant pain depresses and frightens me.
I texted a Texas pal a few days after I arrived: “I may have made a serious mistake.”
I have the most Lovely Friend here. Shanti is a beautiful black woman, with dreadlocks to die for, who looks and acts twenty years younger than the calendar indicates she should (note to self: Sign up for yoga and become a vegetarian– NOW). She’s wise and gentle and cheerful, and her heart is so big, you could fit the state of Texas inside with room to spare. I’ve known her for about thirteen years or so, and once I dreamed that she was speaking to me, and every time she opened her mouth, pearls kept pouring out. It was symbolic of all of the wisdom she’s bestowed upon me over the years.
Shanti and her and her husband John were married for thirty years, and were madly in love with each other. I visited their farm last September. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December, and died in June. I called my Lovely Friend Shanti shortly after I got here. She invited me to her house for lunch, and we ate and laughed and cried and talked about John– his illness, his humor, their marriage, his life and death. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, hearing about their strength and love during his final days. In those months of his illness, he did everything he could to make sure she was going to be okay after he left this world, from buying her a lighter weight Weed Eater to getting his personal affairs in order. On her side of things, Shanti found them a house in town near the hospital, helped to keep him comfortable, and posted updates on a website to keep friends and family apprised of his condition. Eating was difficult for John, and no sooner would he mention something that he felt he might be able to keep down, than Shanti was in the car, on her way to the grocery store to buy it. Squash. Bananas. Jello. Asparagus. If he needed help moving from point A to point B, she was there at his side to do it.
They sowed what they’d reaped from their goodness to others over the years. Friends helped with a yard sale at the farm, and neighbors drove away truckloads of stuff that Shanti and John no longer needed. People helped with the move, cooked food, cleaned house, did repairs and watched over John when Shanti had a conference or workshop to attend. A group of singers came to sing songs to him, in order for him to approve the ones that he wanted at his funeral. In the evenings, John and Shanti sat side by side in their recliners, watching movies, reading each other poetry and talking about how much they’d miss each other.
As our visit was ending and we’d wiped our eyes, Shanti said, “Moonie, you should move in here with me. It would be so helpful to me. My days are full, but my nights are so lonely. I have no one to come home to.”
“Leave it to you to make it sound like I’d be doing you a favor,” I laughed. Leave it to Shanti to make it sound like inviting an unemployed, depressed, partially disabled mess to share her home would be a good thing. She repeated the request a few more times over the next couple of weeks. As she described the emptiness, her loneliness, the way she wandered around the house lost without her husband, I saw that, in a way, we were both in the same place, and that just maybe, it would be a good thing, at least for a while.
At first, I fretted a lot. I still had no formal job, though I tried to help Shanti as much as I could. “It doesn’t seem equitable,” I’d tell her. Finally, after hearing me whine about the inequality of the situation for about the eigthieth time, she said this:
So here I am, a couple of months later. I sleep on a little daybed in the living room, and Theo, the Tiny Dog of Wonder, sleeps with me. Most evenings, my Lovely Friend and I sit side by side in recliners like two old spinsters. We watch “The Wire” and “Deadwood” and talk and laugh a lot. John is often here with us, I think, watching over us and laughing too.