For Sally

Winter is coming.  For those in the American South that is a period in which you wear things called trousers (aka jeans) for a week.  Here, it lasts much longer and is preceded by Fall, a period of time in which the Earth cannot decide whether you should wear trousers or shorts.  The time for waffling back and forth on this decision can be as much as a few days or a few hours before proceeding straight into Winter and promptly staying there for far too long.

But this post isn’t about the seasons.  Well, it partially is.

There are some benefits to seasons, and that is clothing.  As a female you buy hats and scarves and gloves.  You can reuse t-shirts under jumpers (aka sweaters) and pack lighter clothes away only for them to seem new six months down the road.  When I used to just travel here to England I would buy scarves like mad, take them back to the American South, and wonder why on Earth I would buy something so useless considering the heat.  But one of the reasons I bought them was so I could bring one back for Sally.

Sally was a neighbor who I called The Cruise Director of the Courtyard.  She came to us through medical problems that forced her out of a lucrative job in carpet sales (it seriously is a lucrative career if you have the knack) and into a small apartment where she hoped to recover from chronic back problems.  She held BBQs and dinners and kept the doors open all day.   You were free to enter and stay as long as you liked, which my dog loved as he utilized her couch as a second home.  She loved to marvel at my travels and insisted I drag out every photo and video clip of everything I did and show it to her twice.  And through her enthusiasm I bought her scarves from all over the world: Ireland, England, Scotland, and Dubai.  And she would drape them over herself and laugh as she nursed her vodka sours and adjusted her heating pads.

She was one of those ones who encouraged me to keep traveling and live abroad.  She would talk about her life which seemed fuzzy and distant, full of giant loving dogs and a strict father.  She struggled with her sexuality and at the same time she reveled in it.  But as the pain grew and so did her dependency on pills and alcohol.  The laughter chased away by darkness, and no amount of pretty silk or wool brought it back.   I found myself sneaking past her open door, avoiding the crying and yelling that everyone could hear.  Then, this past Tuesday, the Cruise Director boarded her ship and sailed away.  A victim of pain and depression that no one could ever help her heal from.

It’s not fun, writing up an unhappy ending.  I’d like to say that to this day I had brought her scarves, but I haven’t in two years.   I do, however, have the ones I bought when there was a woman named Sally, who moved into a courtyard several years ago.  She had a laugh that would carry for miles and she could cook fish tacos like it was nobody’s business.  And she was going to beat back that pain in her back and in her head.  Maybe she finally did.  In fact, maybe she’s on the sea now, wrapped in silk and wool, and planning out activities for the stars.

I hope she is.

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