Queen Elizabeth, my husband called her, with just the slightest zest of envy, as I went on and on about something that Liz had quoted or worn or cooked to absolute perfection. Despite our manifest differences in temperature (she was lime sorbet, and I was, perhaps, wasabi), we intersected at so many more places than most friends do: Since Liz writes plays, in addition to performing all over the world, and I write books and
essays, we share much that pertains to both occupations. We’re happiest en route to new destinations, at home completely out of our natural habitat and preferably swimming underwater. She once told me a story about one of her sons that made me laugh so hard, I had to drive off onto a country road and pee in the bushes. I sent her lavender when her screenplay was optioned. She brought me chocolate when the IVF failed.
After our falling-out, it would be days before I realized Liz was refusing my calls.
I thought she was just busy or traveling with her husband, Charles. Liz had never let a day go by without returning my call.
When two days turned into three and then five, I couldn’t believe it. Was she actually mad at me for bringing up the surgery Anthony had had to straighten his nose and give him a perfectly patrician profile? I’m sure Anthony hadn’t told everyone he knew, but his nose job was no big secret.
Lizzie mine, I wanted to cry, is this fair? Her son wasn’t a high school boy; he was a grown man, if a young one. And he was the one who brought up appearances!
After an earlier misunderstanding, Liz and I had vowed total honesty in our relationship, swearing that if either of us was ever angry, we’d talk it out, then and there. This time, Liz wrote me a letter, which took yet another seven days or so to arrive. By then, I was too hurt and outraged to open it. Instead, furious that she would drop me over what seemed a trifle, I had fired off the lowest form of human communication, the excoriating e‑mail, accusing Liz of being stingy both emotionally and financially—reminding her that when we invited her and her husband for dinner, we served steak and Brie; they served soup and salad. I gave her a luxurious shawl for Christmas; she gave me a mug.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you know you’re wrong, then you realize you may be seriously wrong, but you’re in so deep you can’t stop and you keep blundering on, hoping you’ll stumble over a justification?
This was like that.
Slowly, it came to me that I’d crossed a line in reprimanding her son. Even though he had insulted me, Liz’s maternal feelings would never permit her to take my side. Still, she owed me some loyalty. First, in a short, affectionate e-mail, I reminded her of that promise about total honesty. Then I reconsidered, quickly sending a handwritten note wishing her well and asserting that nothing more needed to be said. In truth, I wanted this episode to die a quick death with no postmortem. I didn’t want to hear what I suspected would be a litany of my failings.
And then, nothing. A silence that would never end. Was I expecting it? Of course not! Shattered, wanting only Liz, I told myself that if I had kept my temper in the first place (I was in the right, sort of, but who cared?), I might have kept her, too.