I bashed my friend over the head with a family tragedy. We had to stop walking, and there in the doorway of a McDonald’s, I told her the details.

“Was she religious?” my friend asked.

“No, quite the opposite. She didn’t believe in drugs, either.”


The street was closed to vehicles for a farmer’s market and we must have looked unusually stern among the late summer people streaming by. I would have guessed we were a couple in the process of breaking up. While my friend stood in silence, I remembered something that happened to my mother many years ago. She was waiting furiously for my father at Tullamarine. He was three days late, because in Los Angeles he’d confused Melbourne, Florida with Melbourne, Australia. Things like that happened in those days. There was a businessman who famously boarded a flight to Oakland, fell asleep, and woke up en route to Auckland.

I was a baby then and my mother was feeding me in a cafe in the arrivals section when a man sat down next to her. He said he was about to leave for Scotland for a tour of golf courses, to include St. Andrew’s, with his golfing buddy, a friend of his from high school, literally the trip of a lifetime. They had saved for years and had both recently retired. At Tullamarine not five minutes before he sat down next to my mother, his friend had dropped dead of a heart attack standing at the urinal. That explained, he said, the paramedics who had just walked by the cafe. They were pointless; the man was dead. “People always tell me their problems. I guess I have an inviting face,” my mother always said whenever she told this story. “And I guess holding a baby made me look compassionate. Oh, and I wasn’t as angry at your Dad when he arrived.”

Outside the McDonald’s, I felt like telling my friend this story as well to lessen the shock, but I knew I already had some years before. We parted and I returned home. A few hours later, my forehead started to peel from sunburn.