Two days after my best friend Baba’s funeral, I fell off my bike and got a boo boo on my knee. It really hurt. It was the kind of boo boo with bright red blood that stung so bad I sucked in my breath and forgot to breathe out. The kind Baba and I used to get chasing each other on the playground or trying on her mom’s high heels and tumbling down her stairs.
I guess that’s what happens when you know someone since kindergarten and you are standing next to her casket a month after her fortieth birthday party. The world feels pretty wobbly and out of focus. I’m pretty sure we’re still rotating on an axis, but I have no idea how.
I won’t pretend Baba and I were inseparable all those years. I was particularly obnoxious to her in middle school. Stole her Billy Idol poster in summer camp and made fun of her hair conditioning techniques. Even threatened to cut off her ponytail once—for which she somehow forgave me.
After prom, we each relocated and I’m no good at catching up by phone. Baba was busy too. She traveled to Indonesia and Central America, earning multiple degrees in psychology, pain management, healing arts. If I listed how many hospitals, clinics, and lives she touched with her soothing hands and heart, I’d have to take over this site.
Eighteen months ago, she called me to say she had some news. I said I needed to call her back because I was at an important lecture. When I called her back she said it was stage 4 and they were giving her six months to a year at most.
But back to my boo boo. Because it still hurts. It’s actually the one thing I have felt besides numb this past week. Living proof that I am still living. It’s about the size of a sand dollar. About two times the size of the freckle they scraped off my best friend Baba’s back in 1996, saying “Got it.”
They didn’t get it. Nobody got it. Certainly not me. Even when she explained (after my Very Important Lecture was over) that 17 years later, the pieces of malignant freckle had swum all over her body, multiplying and regenerating. Her body—the same one that sailed ships and belly danced and had a great rack and never needed moisturizer or zit cream. Damn it, that body. Just lying there.
I was so scared for all the other bodies I’ve watched leave this earth—my father, my mother, my uncle. With Baba, I’m devastated, but not scared for her. For the first time, I truly believe she will continue in some form. She has to. When I see her for the last time in this bodily form, she is unafraid and graceful. She is truly gorgeous with rosy cheeks and soft eyelids. But even before her last breath I think, I can’t stand up. I’m going to fall. Please let me just fall for a while.
So I do. Off my bike. Onto the pavement. There’s a kind man there in a sanitation jumpsuit who asks if I’m okay and I want to say no I just lost my best friend but instead I say yes I’m fine, because he’s already moved on to the next potato chip wrapper.
And I walk for a while, just me and my boo boo. Stinging. Living proof that I am living. And she is gone.