Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Losing a Friend
A week ago Sunday, I returned from Los Angeles, where Andy Tauer and I launched Loretta, the second fragrance in the Tableau de Parfums line. The turnout was nice, what seemed like twice the size of last year's release event for Miriam. I smelled a lot of new things I'd heard about but hadn't had a chance to get my hands on. Some were interesting. Many were disappointing.
The first several days of last week were full of catching up. The trip to LA was brief but even a brief interruption these days leaves me with a lot of loose ends. It was in this scattered frame of mind that I received news of a friend's death, early Thursday morning. When I was told by text at 6:30 a.m., it hardly seemed real. It was real, but even a week later, I keep reminding myself it's actually happened.
My friend was a pretty wonderful person. I met her about eight or nine years ago, when I wandered into a yarn shop she owned at the time to pretend I knew how to knit. I don't think I'd tried anything at that point - not even a scarf. I was attracted by the possibilities and wanted to believe knitting was something I could do if I practiced enough. The yarn was like perfume - there was so much of it, in so many different varieties. The place was like a candy store.
On any day of the week, I'd drop in and people were there knitting. If the place was open there was someone there. Often a group. Papatya had opened the store a year or so before. She held down a day job at an architect firm as a draftsman. On her lunch hours and after she clocked out at the firm, she was often at the shop, chatting with everyone, knitting herself. Weekends the place was full, and every Tuesday night people met at a large table in a side room to knit and catch up.
I met a lot of people there but no one more interesting than Papatya. Her life seemed to be very much in order. She was assertive, funny, friendly, ambitious. It seemed like she could knit or solve anything, and I doubt I would have progressed as quickly as I did without her constant tutoring. Any time I got myself stuck without knowing why, I could run over to the store, knowing she'd help. I'd get all my yarn tangled up and she'd patiently untangle it for me. She liked to do it, she said. I still find that hard to believe.
I'm an adventurous, maybe lazy, knitter. I want to use whatever yarn I like for the pattern at hand, regardless of the gauge called for. I want to use odd color combinations. I progressed to blankets and sweaters sooner than a lot of knitters do, and I wasn't afraid to take chances - but largely because I knew Papatya would support me when I hit a dead end, and she typically encouraged my choices, despite the often mixed results.
When the store closed a year later, the Tuesday night knitting group moved to a local cafe. I got busier and busier with film work, often too stressed to attend. The faces changed, but as usual Papatya was the central force holding the social network together. I saw Papatya less during that time, but she was always supportive of whatever I happened to be doing. I know from hearing others talk over the last week that she was like this with most of her friends. She made you feel you were one of her favorite people. She had that quality. It breaks my heart we weren't able to help her the way she'd helped us. She was obviously in a fix somehow, in a difficult place emotionally and mentally. She was so good at solving other people's problems that it was hard for us to see she might need help with her own. We'll never know why she took her life last Tuesday, or why she chose to do it that day, which held a lot of significance for her, and for a lot of us.
I'm going to miss her. I miss her already. Everything I've knit reminds me of her. Knitting itself does. I've spent most of the last week editing, which helps me hyper-focus and keep my mind from spinning through the details, the why and how. I've surrounded myself with perfume - old favorites, which hold a particular appeal right now. That transports me to a better place. I hope she's in one too.
(The photo above shows Papatya as I remember her - in the middle of things, admiring someone's progress)