Love, Sugar Tits

I’ve replayed how to begin this post a thousand different ways in my head, and each time it plays out hollow or false, or just not right. I figured maybe my timing was off, but it’s there. I just don’t know how to get it started. So I’m just going to lay it out blunt.

I lost a great friend last week.

It’s the first true close friend I’ve ever lost to death, so I guess in some respects some might say I’m lucky. I don’t feel lucky. I feel this small tear, this dark hole in me that salty tears simply cannot fill.

Based on society and circumstances and everything else, he and I probably shouldn’t have become such good friends. He was rough around the edges, where I was more polished. He was more cavalier, where I was more reserved. He startled me with his coarseness when I first met him, and then I learned to laugh at how he simply did not have a filter. Or chose not to use one. You knew where you stood with him most of the time. I can’t say he taught to me to swear like a sailor, but he did teach me to converse like one.

In so many ways he was sort of my broken hero.

I didn’t realize this until I was going thru a point in my life where my heart was crushed into so many tiny pieces, and he unwittingly helped me put it back together again. He didn’t mean to. He was being his absolute hound dog self, hitting on me when I was at my most vulnerable. We had been friends for years prior but I never saw him that way. But it was at a time when I felt so utterly unlovable that I soaked up his tireless attention like a thirsty sponge.

Every morning like clockwork he would send me a simple but beautiful message, reminding me that I was attractive, or sweet or any of the other positive attributes that I had buried in the pain of my break-up. These messages were coming from my friend, and as it usually works for me, I needed a brick to the head to realize he was actually hitting on me. He had to spell it out, because I wasn’t getting it. After a while I found myself looking forward to those messages, even though I had a hard time seeing past us being anything but good friends. But he persisted. Damn did he persist. He found a thousand ways around my arguments on why we shouldn’t go out. Finally out of curiosity and sheer exhaustion we went on one date.

He promised me a lobster dinner, which we didn’t have that night. Instead he showed up with champagne and a beautiful pair of jade earrings that he had picked up while working in Texas. The champagne is long gone (that night no less), but I cherish those earrings. We laughed a lot that night and we fought a lot that night. That’s how we communicated. He’d tell me to stop being such a bitch, and I’d remind him what an asshole he was. Then he would always say, “Yes, Dear.” and everything would be fine. He was like that with most people, but that night he showed a side to me that I had never really known with him. In between the caustic remarks, he was tender. He was charming and sweet. He  even hid the fact that at one point my dog had bit him on the thumb, all the way down to the bone. When I asked why, he said it was because he didn’t want to ruin the night. Or get the dog in trouble.

The date ended as most future times ended with him, with both of us pretty drunk. Damn could that man drink. Eventually the alcohol won and we passed out fully clothed, with me cuddled up to his chest. No sex. Just good friends who gave romance a shot and realized they made better friends than lovers. We never really saw each other in a realistic romantic way after that, despite the fact that for years we would talk outrageously about how we would one day get married. It would be lavish. No, it would be simple, one of us would argue back.

I really felt I could tell him anything. Conversations never got too serious, but there was no bullshit. The flirting wasn’t even flirting. He’d call me Sugar Tits, and I’d mockingly get pissed (although I wasn’t really a fan of the moniker), giving him the reaction he was trying to get from me.

One afternoon he texted me and asked if I could call him that night. I found that a little strange, because he had never asked me to call him. We either did or didn’t. Usually we talked after we had tired from texting for so long. I promised to call when I got home. That’s when he told me about the initial cancer. Prognosis was good, he said. Treatment wasn’t severe, and he could probably complete it before he had to back to Texas for filming. Because the diagnosis seemed so good I didn’t take it too seriously. The honest truth was it freaked me out a little, and I wasn’t sure how to react.

So life between us remained status quo. Sometimes we would go weeks without talking with one another. Sometimes he’d call me drunk late at night asking me to come visit him in Dallas. Asking me when we were getting married. “New Year’s Eve, silly!”, I’d remind him. I knew it was drunk talk, but he seemed happier.

Finally the job ended and he was back in California, and I took his presence for granted. I didn’t text or call like I used to. I kept meaning to text or call, but I’d forget. We’d get together but not as frequently. When I finally reached out to him I got no response. I badgered him over a week about the lack of response, wondering if I had done something to offend him. He always returned my texts. Finally he called me to let me know he’d been in the hospital. The cancer had returned. It wasn’t good.

I burst into tears initially. I didn’t know how to handle it, so I teased him how if we had gotten married by now, he’d have awesome medical insurance and we would have caught this sooner. I wanted to be strong and stoic for him. Like he had been for me.

Finally one night in mid-October we had a long involved talk. This one had the same sentiments as the others, but with a little more seriousness to them. We discussed a Bucket List of things he wanted. They were so small, that I realized he had sort of given up. It was just a waiting game. And as if the Gods heard or felt this change, he kept getting sicker and sicker. They kept finding more and more cancer. His original prognosis of 8 months to a year shortened to six months, four months, and finally 6-8 weeks. I tried to push myself into his life, more and more. Like maybe I could absorb him or something. I didn’t want to lose this man, but I also didn’t know what to do. We spent Thanksgiving together. That was the last time he looked like the man I knew.

One night in early November, he and I were texting briefly and I asked if we could finish the conversation later. I was in the midst of running errands. As usual he ended it with a moniker which could be anything as sweet as Pretty Baby, to – as I mentioned, Sugar Tits. This conversation was the latter. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Ok, Talk later. Love You.

Him: You Got it Sugar Tits!

Me: You know anyone else calling me that would be offensive.

Him: I know!!

Me: Such a Dog.

Him: That’s Me!!

The part that got me? I forgot to text him back. Nearly a week later I got this:

Him: Remind me never to call you Sugar Tits again … it makes you forget all about me.

That hit home. I laughed it off with him at the time, but that’s when I realized I was making time for me, who had all the time in the world, and neglecting this close friend who had very very limited time in this world. It also showed me that soft underbelly he had. That vulnerable side that not a lot of people knew about. I never forgot to text him after that.

By the holidays he was failing fast, and by the new year he was in hospice home care. The first weekend I went out to see him I felt like I was looking at a stranger. He was so frail. But he was most definitely was still him. Smoking. Drinking, although barely. I think the alcohol was there so he could thrust his finger at the Gods to let them know they were not going to stop him from living what few moments he might have of his life. He was quiet and watched TV while the bustle of friends as caregivers and caregivers as caregivers moved around him. I wasn’t sure what to say. The me wanted to act as if this was still ordinary, but it wasn’t possible. I hated that I was treating him with kid gloves on. Like he wasn’t the same person under that smaller frame. After a couple of hours of near silence and just watching TV, I finally asked him if he wanted me to leave. If he was too tired, or anything. He said no, that he liked the company. I stayed and never questioned it again.

I went out to see him two more weekends before I left town for a vacation I couldn’t get out of. Each time I was supposed to go, I had to nearly be forced to, because it killed me to see him like that. I was – I AM a chickenshit, and I don’t  know how to deal with these things. Each time I was kicked in the ass gently and reminded of what I needed to do, and each time I was grateful for the additional hours spent with him. Just watching TV.

The one fear I had, the one I told people – was that he would die while I was on this cruise. Never mention your fears out loud. It just gives the Gods something to toss around. He died Friday, early evening while I was getting ready for a cruise cocktail party. Almost seems justified in the end. No one could reach me to let me know, so when I found out it was unexpected; A sharp knife to the gut, that would have caused my knees to buckle if I had been standing.

The last text I had with him was the day before I left for New Orleans; One week and one day prior to his passing. I told him I would see him on the 22nd and that I loved him. He responded, “I love you too Pretty Lady.”

I almost wished he had called me Sugar Tits, but as promised in the text mentioned above, he never did call me that again.

I love you Steve. I’m pissed you never got the opportunity to teach me to golf. I wish I could have conveyed to you what an amazing friend you were to me. You still owe me that lobster dinner and wedding.

Love, Sugar Tits.

=======

This has taken me such a long time to write. It feels fragmented and jolty. It’s definitely not one of my better pieces, but it’s one that needed to be done. I had to go thru old texts messages to find that Sugar Tits message, so I could get the right wording. In going thru them I teared up, because I realized I’ll never have those conversations with him or anyone like him again.

A lot of people weren’t fond of him, and he wasn’t fond of a lot of people. It’s what made him who he was. I don’t claim to know him better than anyone else, and I don’t think our relationship was above others. I just know he held such an amazing place in my heart and that I am going to miss the fuck out of him.

Steve and I

 

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6 thoughts on “Love, Sugar Tits

  1. Truly an amazing tribute Gina. My heart is heavy and that nagging emptiness in the pit of my gut emerged with full force at reading your tale. Thank you for being you, for Steve and for the universe.

    • Thanks Kathy. I am appreciating all the feedback. I didn’t think it was a very good piece but I sort of just went with my gut. He was crude and rude but I loved the heck out of him.

      • Ya know, from the gut, in my opinion, always produces the best writing. Sometimes just putting words to such intense feelings and emotions can also be the most healing salve for the soul. *hugs* Thanks again for sharing~

      • I think you must be right, because the two pieces that I wrote from the gut I thought were crap, but they received the most accolades. Thanks for being a listening audience to a little bit of pain that needed a release.

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