The People of Schadenfreude Love and Respect Me as an Artist

Which is why they had the idea of me reading something at their rent show on Saturday and playing fart noises behind it. Of course that itself wouldn't be that funny (well maybe kinda) but they wanted me to write a sad, serious, personal piece and they'd tell the audience that they agreed to let me read something non-humorous just so long as they were able to put farts behind it. I think it turned out pretty well but in case you weren't lucky enough to be there, here is the piece in its entirety (it got trimmed some for the reading).


Did you ever have a best friend? I'm not talking about just a best friend. I'm talking about the kind of best friend that is really more like a sister, an ancient celestial soul sister with whom you share a bond that no one can understand? I doubt that you have, but I have.

Hillary and I met under the boardwalk in Atlantic City when we were just precocious little girls, and something drew us together. We grew up and wrote each other letters and supported each other in young adulthood, living in the big city in a tiny squalid apartment, laughing, loving, crying. Together. One day, though, we had a fight, because Hillary was jealous of my talents as a singer (I was a singer then), she moved to San Francisco to marry a lawyer while I stayed in the city. I still wrote Hillary letters, but she never returned them, until one day she wrote to me and said, "Claire, I need you. I was always jealous of your talents as a singer. I'm pregnant and alone. I need you. And also, I'm dying."

Of course I rushed out to the coast, just in time to help Hillary deliver her baby. It was an amazing moment, as I coaxed the baby out of her and into my hands. Life was in my hands.

"I'm dying," Hillary reminded me.

So we went back to where it all started: the beach. Her little daughter, Victoria and I helped keep Hillary alive for as long as we could although frankly Victoria didn't help that much, always running to her mother and throwing herself at her while Hillary could do nothing but wheeze under the blanket in her lounge chair. To make her feel better, I wrote Hillary a beautiful song called "Wind Beneath My Wings."

And then, Hillary died.

So I was left to tend to Victoria. We decided to leave the beach and move to Louisiana, where we made some wonderful friends at a local beauty parlor. There was the blonde who owned the beauty parlor, the rich crabby lady, the rich funny lady, the weird nerd, Shelby and me. I must mention that I changed Victoria's name to Shelby.

We laughed, loved and cried together, we friends and I. We faced some tough times, too, times that made me realize that these southern women were not just delicate flowers: they were flower made of some sort of metal.

We also celebrated many holidays together, and went to church, as well.

Shelby grew up beautiful, but also developed a case of diabetes, which occasionally gave her frightening fits which could only be cured by orange juice. That didn't stop her from having a beautiful wedding, however. I was so happy for my adopted daughter, but I was unhappy when she told me, soon after the wedding, that she was pregnant.

"But you're too sick to be pregnant!" I said.

"Momma, I'm going to have this baby," she said with determination in her eyes. I knew that determination. It was the sort that only strong women have. I was so proud of her.

She did have the baby, a beautiful boy, and then shortly fell into a diabetic coma. She looked just lovely, lying there in her coma, but it was very sad.

I went to the hospital to visit Shelby and I sat by her side, talking to her, stroking her hair, looking exhausted but quite striking myself My husband at the time would come by and tell me "Get some sleep, Claire, please," but I would shoo him away. I wish Shelby could say something, anything, back to me, even if it was just to say "Momma, I'm dying," but she couldn't. We eventually decided to let Shelby expire.

I don't know what I would have done without my best friends there at my side afterwards. Oh how we cried. Oh how we laughed! And we loved, too. The weird nerd had a baby afterwards, and she named the baby Shelby, which was so very nice.

And I had my daughter's baby to take care of. A baby girl. I know that I said that Shelby had a son but I knew a baby girl would need a strong mother like me to show her how much I loved her, to show her the terms of my endearment.

Emma, as I named her, grew up and together we searched for love, as I revealed how difficult and caring I can be. Together, we found our reasons for going on living and finding joy. I fell in love with a retired astronaut who lived next door to us. And then Emma's and my relationship came full circle when, one fateful day, Emma was diagnosed with cancer that soon became terminal.

"Mom," she said. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but I'm dying."

"Love means never having to say you're sorry," I said.

"What does that even mean?" she asked, and died. I am just so glad that before she died, Emma and I found so many different ways of expressing love to each other. And that I had my best friends there to help me through it.

Just after Emma died, our beloved dog, Old Yellow, came running up the driveway. Something seemed terribly wrong with him as he lunged towards my neck. "What's wrong, Yellow?" I asked, but he just foamed at the mouth in response. I wanted nothing so badly as to bury my head in his fur, I forgot what color it was, and cry away all the things that had happened that day. But instead I had to shoot him. My best friend.
it was, and cry away all the things that had happened that day. But instead I had to shoot him. My best friend.

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