Beth Mann's Blog

Beth's Urban Tales of Wonder and Decay

Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

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SEPTEMBER 21, 2009 11:56AM

Love Means....

Rate: 87 Flag

I’m not sure why you stopped talking to me. It happened slowly, methodically, like rust. There was no big fall-out, no noteworthy event. Suddenly, you and I were no longer speaking. The divide formed.

Women are weird. They’re passivity runs deep. But you and I are different. We’re the outspoken women who yell when angry and sob when sad. We cry out. We express. What happened? Our voices got pale and garbled suddenly. The lines fell down.

Maybe it started when you received the diagnosis. I knew it. You knew it. Even as teenagers, you knew you’d get breast cancer. Your mother had it and you just felt it in your bones. Your bones were my bones, so I felt it too. It was no surprise.

The size was a surprise, though. A baseball, they said. A fucking baseball. I moved from San Francisco to New York, in part to be closer to you. But somehow, my own survival became an issue and I wasn’t as bedside as I wanted to be. Perhaps that’s when it began, the divide.

When they removed your breasts, you showed me your flattened, sutured chest in your kitchen. There was nothing you could show me that would shock me. You are my best friend. Your scars are mine.

“No, they’re not, Beth. They’re mine. You still have breasts.”

I tried to understand the difference that was forming but somehow I never grasped it the way you wanted me to. Perhaps I was unable. Perhaps I am just too self-centered.

“When am I ever going to have sex again, Beth? Who’s going to want to have sex with me now?”

You always loved sex, almost to a fault. You put the horniest sailor to shame.

“I want to have sex,” you’d say many times in the past, apropos of nothing. “I want to have sex now.”

“Kris, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe there will be someone at the party tonight.”

“There better be because I want to have sex.

“I heard you the first time, Kris.”

Breastless, you felt sexless. And I didn’t know how to give that back to you. Your sex drive was your lifeline.

“I’ll get out of New York and come visit you for Christmas,” I told you, during our last phone conversation. (No one tells you it will be the last time you'll speak on the phone. No announcements are made. But it would be our final phone call. You would accept no more of my calls after that.)

A year passed. Calls placed. Letters. Pictures. Anything. Friends tried to intervene.

“She’s getting worse, Beth. You need to come see her.”

“She doesn’t want to see me. She hasn’t responded to me in a year. I did something very wrong.”

“It doesn’t matter now.”

The secondhand stories grow worse. You can't walk that well. Your bones begin to snap. Your face changes, shifts, hollows. You are 42 and dying of breast cancer. This massive clock in a pitch-dark sky keeps ticking in my ears.

You always served as the big sister – a role you didn’t always relish. I was the emotional mess and you were the semi-reluctant anchor. Maybe this time you wanted to be the emotional mess and it was too late for us to change roles. Is that why you're mad at me, Krissie?

Maybe my problems were too dismaying. You yelled  several years ago, as I relayed to you a recent event where I put myself in jeopardy with drugs, men, sex, wine and recklessness. “What the hell is your problem? What would possess you to put yourself in that situation?”

Unable to answer, I just felt shame. Shame that you, my closest friend, saw the train wreck that was my life and could no longer tolerate it.

I’m racing down a highway in South Jersey, trying to get to you. You have hours to live, they tell me. Hours! I race and race but cannot erase. What did I do? What did I do?

When I get to your house, your mother is waiting on the steps, fragile, shaken, deeply worn.

“Please, Beth…just be careful! Don’t upset her. I know you two…please, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

I think of the other times in my life when a gatekeeper intervenes – someone to warn me before I walk through a doorway and face death. How the gatekeepers sound the same. When my mother was dying, it was my brother-in-law. “You need to know, Beth…she looks differently since the last time. It’s…”

“Get out of my way.”

When I enter the shrine, your air-conditioned bedroom, with the curtains drawn and music playing, your eyes light up.

You’re not mad at me! You’re not mad at me! Those eyes are happy to see me.

I crumple next to you, exhausted, in your hands, totally in your hands. You try to splash cold water on my face because you see how red I am, from racing, crying, humiliation. Leave it to you to worry about me and my comfort at that moment  Leave it to you to be so much of a better person than me.

Then you say something that stuns me:

“I don’t know how to say I’m sorry,” you utter, in this unrecognizable, garbled voice.

You? You don’t know how to say you’re sorry to me? I’m sorry. I’m the bad friend. I’m the selfish one. I didn’t show up enough and….”

“No. That wasn’t it. That's not why…”

“Then why?”

You try so hard to find the words but it's exhausting, stretching and reaching for words, words, words, and you are so tired. You look me pleadingly, as if to say, "Read my mind, Beth. I can't work any harder." Rest, please. Stop. Stop!

“Does it matter, Kris...does it?”

“No. No, it doesn’t. At all.” That comes out very clearly. In your old voice.

And we let it go. At that very moment. Our silence breaks. All is forgiven. The birds fly out the window.

I sit down and sing songs quietly to you the rest of the afternoon as you sleep restlessly, fighting some imaginary blanket being pulled over your body. I sing all the songs we love to sing, over wine, over food, over cigarettes, over stories, over love, over loss, over life. Our anthems, our songs from our humble, beautiful and difficult Jersey lives.

I could tell you enjoyed it. A slight smile sometimes. I sing our songs like little lullabies and put you to sleep.

One of our songs:

Sara - Fleetwood Mac

Wait a minute baby...
Stay with me awhile
Said you'd give me light
But you never told be about the fire

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now its gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

And he was just like a great dark wing
Within the wings of a storm
I think I had met my match -- he was singing
And undoing the laces
Undoing the laces

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now its gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

Hold on
The night is coming and the starling flew for days
I'd stay home at night all the time
I'd go anywhere, anywhere
Ask me and I'm there because I care

Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, never stop
And now its gone
It doesn't matter what for
When you build your house
I'll come by

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now it's gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

All I ever wanted
Was to know that you were dreaming
(There's a heartbeat and it never really died)


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This was chilling, haunting, exquisite, sad and beautiful, Beth. My heart goes out to you and Kris and all who love her.
I'm glad you were the first to comment. I didn't really want to post this for so many reasons. I'm glad you were there on the other side.
Forgiveness forever entwined with friendship is a beautiful thing. Sadness comes with silence and perceived echos. I'm happy that the birds flew the window. rAted!
This is the kind of content that keeps me hooked on OS like heroin. Thank you, Beth, for your honesty and the skill with which you wrapped up the complicated nature of (some) female friendships. Hugs and condolences.
Nice post. Sad situation. Be thankful that you were able to make amends. Your friend has realized that things that once seemed so important, really aren't that important anymore. Take care of yourself. My heart aches for both of you.
Jesus, Beth. Cartouche already said all the best words for the writing. You show your fierce heart, and your fierce love, in this writing and in this story. I am so impressed, though, that you ran toward her - raced - in spite of your fear. I am so glad you found love there, and that she did as well.

Read this back to yourself when you need to remember your heart.
This is exactly what loves means...exactly.
Thanks Owl, Chuck, Wanderer, Verbal. Your words mean much to me.
Beautifully told and touching. I understand her feelings. Nobody wants to be seen when they feel ugly - least of all by the person you respect the most. I know I have pulled away for that very reason. Easy to see now how that was an act of faithlessness but at the time of turmoil it's really hard to see. In the end, she only cared that you were there.
Stunning. I'm so glad you two realized your deep love and friendship. ((HUGS))
Oh Beth, this truly is your vivid take on universals we face sooner or later. Done with the talent and heart and honesty and passion we've come to expect.
John Lennon had some liner notes once on one of those obscure Lennon/Ono recordings, mocking a trite phrase from the 70's.
His take: " Love is having to say you're sorry every five minutes."
I started to write my comment and then I realized I was plagarizing cartouche. :)

'nuff said.
“Does it matter, Kris...does it?”

“No. No, it doesn’t. At all.”

No, it doesn't, does it. Thank you for the reminder. In the end, whether it's an end or just an end to the silence, it doesn't matter where connection is concerned.

This is rare, beatifully wrought, and important. Thank you...
You know you aren't suppose to post this stuff when I am at work. It's hard to claim "allergies" in the fall.
I am grateful you both gave and received the gifts you so desperately needed. You're a good friend, Beth. Hugs.
Beautiful, Beth. Just beautiful.
Love, loss, redemption....I am so crying right now. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Beautiful Beth, glad you got a chance to be with Kris when she needed you most.
I'm so sorry for your loss, all of it. It's odd...sometimes it can be impossible to understand that a friend will go where we can't. And we can't claim it or claim to be part of it. We can only be on the outside, cheering them on if that's possible.

Sometimes there's anger and loss and misunderstandings. When I fell in love and moved across the country, my best friend didn't forgive me, wouldn't. And although I did not know exactly what was going on, like you I sensed there was something wrong. But being so far apart, there wasn't much to be done. We moved back to the east coast after five years and my friend and I connected, acted as if nothing happened but there would be outbursts and the truth is, it's not the same in some maybe important ways. It's not exactly different but we're different women, we kept evolving without each other.

We all live our lives and we move from place to place. That can happen even when we don't physically go anywhere. It's part and parcel of life. Two people live two different lives. I hope you can understand and forgive her. And forgive yourself as well.
mamoore, harry, buffy, lea, also, surly, ck, ocular, dharma, outside, no frills, rita, no frills...thank you. many kind words and good points.

friendships can possess their own share of confusion and difficulties, often overshadowed and less talked about than romantic relationships. most of us don't expect problems with friendships. their supposed to be exempt somehow. perhaps many of us - such as myself - are often quite confused when we encounter them. they feel different and on some levels, more complex.
Damn Beth. Poor Krissie.
I'm sure glad this ended happily, kind of happily.
Crap, I don't know what to say here except
I'm speechless...
"I'm racing down a highway... trying to get to you." This line leaped off the page and grabbed me by the throat. "Racing to get to you" - that is love.
Thank you for posting this.
Trig, thanks for calling her Krissie. That's her real name, to me. Her name is Kristina and I'd often call her Kris for short but she's always Krissie to me.

Unbreakable and others, so you know, this happened last year. I just haven't felt comfortable writing about it since it was too hard. Isn't that interesting - at least for me...some of the bigger stuff, I hardly ever write about. At least not while I'm in the thick of it.
What a great story about friendship. To have a friendship like that you were both blessed. Thanks for sharing.
God I feel this so exquisitely... the tears are pouring down my face. Thank you, dear Beth.
good job, this couldn't have been easy
Beth this was good. That's all I can figure out how to say.
You and Kris are Love. Thank touched my soul. (RATED!)
Big Hugs. Passionately passive.

What a heartbreakingly beautiful post. And I love "Sara." It's one of my favorites.
Brava! This hit very close to home for me. I haven't written about my friend yet, but given the tears I'm shedding right now, maybe I need to.
What Maria said. Touching, beautifully told. Sara is also one of my favorites. Thanks for having the courage to post this.
Love to you and Kris...xox
Yes, this is how it sometimes goes. And we all need this reminder.... because we will all be both of you somewhere along the way. Sometime, with someone, we will each do this; this is universal, with its pain and love.

Such beautiful women. Thank you, so much, for sharing the photo, too.

This breaks my heart.
I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. I lost a good friend last year. I did not see him at the end. I did not see him because I was preoccupied with my own problems, and because he kept sending out happy newsletters every few weeks saying how he was getting better, and because I didn't call when I should have seen through his optimist's bullshit.

I'm glad for you that you two made peace. What a great gift you gave her, and what a great gift she gave you!
Dammit Beth! You made me cry- I'm frickin' crying over here.
I can't tell you how this touches me---the number of ways--with fear and tears and love. As soon as I finish typing this, I am sending this to my friend, one of our fellow Jersey girls. Beth, this piece was truly special.
Kris is so lucky to have a true friend like you. What a blessing that you were able to make peace. A very touching post. Thanks for sharing it with us.
If you'll pardon me, I think I need to go cry about my Dad again.
This is beautiful and tender, sweet and strong. Your telling of your friendship with Krissie and your last time together made me smile and cry. Thank you for sharing your friendship with us.
Beth this is heartbreaking, yet the beauty of the writing supplants the darkness.......
wow beth, I don't know what to say, I'm drained from reading this. what a brave heartbreaking honest account. xo
Our silence breaks. All is forgiven. The birds fly out the window.

Add me to the list of people who are sitting teary-eyed at their desks, stopped in their tracks by the power and poetry of this piece.
So glad you made it in time...
In my Dad's last days, he lay on his bed looking at me. He said,
"We need to get ready for the party at Zales." I realized he was looking (through his eyes) at his best friend. In the 40's, they had registered at a local jewelry store for a reception. Both of them were going downtown to buy rings for their girls...It was a small feat for me to close my eyes, and go downtown to the party that would change the direction of his life. He was smiling so broadly s he went to sleep...
A powerful description of a special friendship. You are lucky to have had the opportunity at the end for reconciliation. Not everyone is so fortunate.

thank you.
I'll be calling my best friend tonight. Beautiful. I'm so sorry for your loss.
what a great love story.
Awesome, in the truest sense...written beautifully. Thank you, Beth, for finding the words.
You continue to amaze me. And take me places. You are incredibly gifted and I hope you are published so more people can read your words. Meanwhile, mind if I share this with a couple of friends over some wine, whiskey and tears?

I feel like I'm reading the words of a friend while at the same time reading the words of a woman who is at the top of her craft. I mean that.
Your comments move me. So much that I can only read a few at a time.

I struggled so hard with which video to pick. Both Krissie and I absolutely adored Stevie Nicks. She was our rock and roll heroine.

This version of Sara (below) seemed more Stevie in all her beautiful form - but it didn't have the rest of the band.

I kept asking, "Kris, which one? Which one?" I decided that we wanted Lindsay Buckinham, et. al. in our video, hence why I chose the one above.

But here's the alternate one, which is very quintessentially Stevie:

But what Krissie liked more than anything else is when Stevie really got into a song and seemed possessed. So in that vain, she would have preferred I posted these great versions of Rhiannon, which I wanted to share with you.

(You can see Stevie crying in this one.)
Beth! I went through some similar things with my dear friend Bobbi. Rated (in Bobbi's memory.)
"And we let it go. At that very moment. Our silence breaks. All is forgiven. The birds fly out the window."

When people love each other, truly love each other, it really doesn't matter anymore, does it, those birds?

You've captured it, Beth even though it was never lost..
you are a brave and fearless writer, I wish I could be as brave as you were when you wrote this and when you were by your friend.
Thank you for sharing this love story.
Your courage blows me away, in your writing and in your living. It always has. You are so funny and so real. I can't imagine how difficult it is to live through this or to share it. But thanks for doing that.
My words do nothing.

a great river of truth flows here
You are both blessed to have had the friendship, but perhaps you both are even blessed for the negative as well.
I write often about how illness has impacted my life, and this was a beautiful piece in a voice that didn't sound proud, or all knowing. Just content in that time and space with your friend. Thanks.
I can't think of another instant where anybody else ever defined them-self so accurately as you did in these 4 short sentences:

'But you and I are different. We’re the outspoken women who yell when angry and sob when sad. We cry out. We express.'

I noticed this trait in you last fall when I stumbled across your 'KABOOM' story on-line - which led me to OS (thank you) - all your emotions are always at the ready, aren't they?
And they're all sincere. You're tapped into all of them. That's very rare and not just a little impressive. Yes, you certainly do 'express'

That there was another woman out there that shared your traits and is now taken from the world (and you of course) is horribly sad and tragic.
I lost my best friend to breast cancer. I saw her through almost ten years of fighting, losing her breast, rounds and rounds of chemo, radiation. I drove her back and forth to doctors. I gathered friends to take shifts. I watched her shrivel and die. I am glad we never had a break. I am glad she lived long enough to give her children a mother they could remember. But I still miss her all the time and she's been gone a dozen years.
Thank you and I am glad you were there at the end.
My God, so powerful. "Bittersweet" sound so goddamn tame to describe this. I love my girlfriends too, and have had a falling out with one - your post is imploring me to get on the phone. I'm so sorry for her diagnosis and so glad that you made it to her bedside.
Yes, I agree with all... what a magnificent display of love. From the beginning, I could not stop reading. Death stalked that poor girl. I am sorry you lost your friend and my heart goes out to you.
I probably would have gone with k.d. lang or Leonard Cohen, myself.
This explains so much. And clearly took the same enormous courage to write as it did to experience. Friendship love means honesty, vulnerability, forgiveness, understanding, pain, redemption, memories. Thank you for sharing these with us.
Heartbreaking. Krissie left far too young, but it's great that you guys got to spend that last day together. She always seemed like such a truly good person. I never paid much attention to the lyrics of this song before, but I think it will make me think of you and Krissie when I hear it now. Thanks for sharing this.
Wow. This was moving, poetic. I am awed. I am teary. I am trying to compose words to respond to this incredible piece of writing, but the words just fall apart upon my keyboard.
I'll just offer my sympathies, as feeble and insufficient as they are.
I came here following NoisyNora´s advice, and I´m so glad I did. Beautiful and heartbreaking. The lullaby songs had me in tears.
I am in tears. This was beautiful, Beth. Thank you.
Heartbreaking and beautiful, Beth. Thank you for sharing this. I hope that this will stick with someone who one day needs to bridge a rift to say goodbye. It is so hard to do what you did, but I am so glad you were able to do it.
Bethy, Bethy. You know you made me cry, because I know you cried, hard and hot tears, as you wrote this. That you maybe even wailed aloud with the release. I know - I've been there, am there. I lost her and I don't quite know why but I'm sure it's my fault and now, I hear, she is 'not doing so well', so 'not well' that her father has come all the way across the country to sit vigil. And here is sit, crying over this story.

I'm so glad you were in time. I'm so glad.
Beth this was very moving and sad and such a descriptor of the complicated friendships we woman can have. The road one walks when facing this kind of horrific illness is lonely and for some, alienating. Innocent words can be misconstrued. One of my sisters had the tragedy of the death of one of her children. I felt I was there for her. Every moment from her phone call on. Always available. Went to the trial, every court hearing to be a support. I didn't want to miss a thing. Several years later, she screamed at me that I hadn't been there for her during that terrible time. I was at a loss, trying not to feel angry and defensive. And I realized that I really did have no idea what she went through or needed, and that perhaps nothing I could ever have done would have been enough. I'm so happy for you that you were able to reconcile with your friend and share the love you both had always had. This is a stunning and beautiful post. Thank you.