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How Did I Get Here:
Friendship and Loss

July 15, 2014

Friendship and Loss 

My oldest and dearest friend called me from Italy, where she lives half the year, to tell me that her doctor in Genoa had discovered a small polyp in her vagina. She was waiting for the results of a biopsy.  Of course she was very frightened.  I hung up and immediately replayed the beginning of our friendship in my mind. 

It was my first week in a new high school in the town where my parents had moved.  I was sitting by myself in the cafeteria when a beanbag sailed through the air and hit me in the forehead.  A slender, pretty girl with short, jet-black hair raced over to my table to apologize, her dress the very same fabric as the beanbag.  When she returned to her table, the scary Vice Principal who always carried herself with military bearing that was enhanced by the severe suits she favored marched over to the girl’s table and seized the beanbag.  The next day the girl, whose name was Margaret, laughingly told me she had denied the beanbag was hers, forgetting for the moment that it matched her dress.  We both almost died laughing, and thus began our friendship.  We have been best friends ever since, except for a few years in our twenties when I thought her behaviors self-destructive and she found me too rigid.  In retrospect, both of us were right, and both of us soon realized we missed each other too much to remain in judgment of the other.  

We have seen each other through marriages, divorces, the birth of our children, problems with those children and all of life’s vicissitudes.  We Skype often now since we live on different continents or different coasts of the United States, easily ‘chatting’ for an hour at a shot.  To say that I was stunned by her phone call is an understatement: I cannot imagine a life without her support, wisdom and humor.  In TTN most of us are at an age where we are dealing with the loss of contemporaries, as well as our own decline or impending decline. 

When I receive a call like this, my heart seizes and my stomach clenches.  But this call, this one was unimaginable.  Fortunately, although the cells were not normal, they were not yet cancerous either.  She will have a hysterectomy as a precautionary move, and get on with her life as a wife, artist and mother.  And I can take a deep breath and go with mine as well.  Some loss is just not imaginable, and I don’t believe we are ever prepared for it. I’m sure it always seems too soon.  ‘Not yet’ we say, knowing full well we have no control.  Margaret and I have decided to video chat more frequently as a way to cheat the inevitable.  It seems a good way to me.

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Nancy Alvarez began writing at Sarah Lawrence College and has written articles for the New York Times Magazine and Cosmopolitan. She has also written for several television shows and movies, including“The Waltons.” Her first novel, “Ladycat” was published by Crown in 1980 under the name Nancy Greenwald. She has taught screen writing at UCLA Extension, as well as in the Masters of Professional Writing at USC as well. She is currently working on a multi-generational novel set in Austria, Poland, New York and New Jersey. Her latest book, "The Girls and Me," along with "Little Nancy," can be found in the TTN Bookstore. Nancy can be reached at either or