August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.
WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.
“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.
I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.
We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.
“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.
I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.
We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.
Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:
Tarra by herself.
Tarra and me.
Tarra and John.
John and me.
Tarra, John, and me.
I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.
A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.
“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”
Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.
As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.
We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.
I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.
“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”
“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”
A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”
She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.
By now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.
“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”
“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.
Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.
We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.
My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.
I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.