Sitting with these good women banishes worries. I do not have to watch my words for there is no threat in the room, no duplicity, no predatory drive. We have been released to look and listen. Enough of our histories are known to the other to create clear portraits — both know of my comic desperations, my foolishness and dumbass remarks, the tragedies and the furies.
There is coffee, the familiar pitch and tremors of their voices and laughter, the comfortable gestures, the blue-sky youth still alive in their faces. Age adds thankfulness to the mix. Together, we can be at rest. We do not have to explain the intricacies of a lifetime’s work, teaching in the same school over decades.
Our adult lives took shape inside classrooms. One word, a variation in tone, one shadow rolling into the eyes, one bark of glee is often all the essential action we require to initiate our response on every bump and bearing we encountered and traveled within all the years — how to use comments on essays to reach kids; the ways to deal with lunatic parents; why the job demands humility, and what delights we can list on seeing all those young faces each day open before us.
There is coffee, the comfort of familiarity, the certainty of trust, the hard-earned wisdom in their eyes that found its origin through brawls and losses and in the joyfulness discovered in the presence of young men and women that is so deep it cannot be made into words.
But we can look at each other and know we share all this, and that our friendships have granted us this dispensation.
Sixty-three is a number that better deliver an awareness of the tempo and time allotted to a life, but also, improvised and singing by its side, an appreciation of the duets and trios, quartets and quintets friendships can form and give voice to in refrains as lovely as we might ever hear.