The search for giraffes is a rehearsal. To be totally frank, there is the slightest chance that this trip to the Bronx Zoo with Hannah will be the last time she sees Melanie. The rigors of Navy life are infamous and I have met too many people who never fully survived the experience intact, to say nothing of a six year enlistment. While I see Hannah as too spunky to be broken down to the degree that she isn't rebuilt still loving us, I don't deny the part of my soul that has made peace with this possibility.
This past year, she has come to me one of my best friends and I would see her out properly. Hannah speaks of how aquariums make her peaceful. We couldn't very well just hang around and watch movies, we needed final memories, the two women I am closest to experiencing something grand. As we love her, I would have her potential last memories of us involve tapirs and flamingos, since she could not have belugas and sea anemones months ago.
The rehearsal isn't for her and is not much for Melanie. It is for me. I need to know that I can let someone go (though I will have a few more weeks with her after this, Melanie will not and there is something in our triadic friendship that needs this) because Melanie's three month banishment from the shores of the Hudson begins in less than a week and I am dreading it. If this goodbye can be easy and sweet, I have hope that mine can be as well.
During our day together, we don't talk about her looming departure in the middle of June, only mentioning her difficulty in meeting the physical fitness requirements without more agonizing training. Like how we feel about our own parting, Melanie and I don't care to indulge our clinginess by acknowledging what makes this day different than those that have come before. I enjoy this last day with my girls as honestly and completely as I can, not outwardly drawing attention to it. It is simply another adventure for us and need be nothing more.
The day rushes by too quickly, as there are only so many bizarre iterations of the animal kingdom we can observe without succumbing to the zoological equivalent of Stendhal Syndrome, so overcome by the sheer prettiness of nature that we pass out and are the 3:30 feeding for the tigers. Hannah and I click the shutters of our cameras with urgency, her to keep the beauty and me to capture the moment for reliving (several of which Melanie insists I delete before they end up as illustrations to some point I am failing to make in my writing).
When we return home, thoroughly exhausted, Hannah excuses herself from lingering by saying that she has to go have a Very Important Conversation with her lover Arthur. We all hug and, as we are showing her to the door, Melanie calls us on the experience we are having, saying, "So I guess this is it. I'll never see you again, so, goodbye." While facetious, it is true that - aside from Daniel, her ex-boyfriend and soon to be ex-roommate - she has little to draw her back to the Hudson Valley but us.
Hannah demurs, saying that she will stop by when she gets leave and that I should meet her for Thai food before she goes. Melanie waves goodbye, uncertain when and if she will be waving hello again, but as least having yelled at walruses and coddled butterflies with a dear friend.
Soon in Xenology: When I was a girl. Making friends out of clay. Sweet sorrow.