Sometime around six PM on Friday night, the nurse asked those of us in the hospice lounge to come to Denise's room. We sat around the bed, holding her hands, her arms, her feet. Thunder banged outside, but the light was soft in the room. A Joni CD I'd made for Denise was playing on her brother Joe's laptop. Song for Sharon. Cotton Avenue. Edith and the Kingpin. Then, Good Friends. Not long ago Denise had reminded me that this was "our song" all the way back when it came out in 1984, when we were first friends. She and I agreed that this demo version was sweeter than the finished album version, and all at once it felt like she was talking to me through the song--or at least through the placement of the song. I stared down at my hand on her left foot and breathed.
Good Friends - Joni Mitchell
The next day, it didn't surprise me to hear that Denise had held on for twelve more hours. According to Nancy, her sister-in-law, another thunderstorm moved through in the middle of the night, one of the most intense she'd ever heard.
"You think I'm going?" Nancy said, channeling Denise. "Hah! Just you wait."
Which made the two of us laugh.
Later that night Mark and I went out to the Atlantic Avenue beach in Amagansett. Hurricane Bill was then moving two hundred miles to the east, doing weirdness to the weather. Vibrant things, beautiful. Half sunset, half thunderhead. Nine foot, ten foot waves, plunging toward us in multiple rows. Spouts, sprays. Every so often a rogue wave slopped the beach all the way up to the dune, but the water was warm, and no one seemed to mind. Wet shorts, wet shoes, wet wallet: wasn't that what we wanted, though we might not have even known it? Then Mark and I looked up and saw the most outstanding rainbow we'd ever seen, a prize specimen of a rainbow, the full arc, maybe the ghost of a second one behind. Five colors vibrating before the sky became just a sky again. We stood there, shocked.
Do you think it's possible to write about that rainbow? Mark said, confused.
It would be a challenge, I said. Denise?
Then another wave came up and swept the beach clean.