I torment myself with regrets. They run the gamut from I should have spent the extra money and bought a sofa that becomes a bed to I should have had more children. What can I say? Fantasies fade, plans unravel, things change and I grieve for the past as well as for Mark—as if the past were a fallen friend. But for all my "woulda, coulda, shouldas," where Mark Carson is concerned my only regret is that we didn't get to grow old together. He would've been dashing and I would've been cranky, and together we would have sipped green tea and watched old movies and catalog-shopped to our hearts' content.
Anyway, that's the ending I would have gone with if I were in charge of the planet. But I'm not even in charge of picking the pizza toppings when I order takeout with my daughter...and she's only 3. About all any of us gets to be in charge of is who we are in our stories.
In this story, I was keenly aware that Mark and I were on borrowed time, and it made me sit up and take notice of every bittersweet second. When time is of the essence, you get tickets to the show, you splurge on Christmas dinner and birthday presents, you stay up talking a little later, you don't let anything go unspoken, you pay attention. I memorized the clipped cadence of his voice and the geography of his gorgeous face. I watched as he gave and took, read and traveled, tried and failed, despaired and rallied, protested, partied, and persevered. And though he never found "the one," he loved and was loved in a world where love doesn't always come easy. I think back to the sea of people that filled his memorial service; they all looked exactly the same. They looked as if they'd lost their best friend.
There was an old woman I once knew who used to say this great thing whenever it was time to leave; she'd pull you very close and, almost like a benediction, she'd whisper, "We only part to meet again."
What I wouldn't give to have that kind of faith. Oh, sweetie, how I wish I could pick up the phone and meet you for a cheeseburger at that very mediocre little diner on West 55th Street. Just thinking about how you'd have let me steal your French fries while helping me find a perfect note on which to end this piece makes me ache. It's been nearly 13 years, and dammit Mark, that ache never really goes away.
But you taught me life is joy and sorrow, hand in hand. And that, my friend, is about all I know. That, and this: I'll see you in my dreams.
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