I’m writing you from an apartment in New York City. It’s a tiny studio, where the bed butts up to the couch butts up to the kitchen. Nobody in Texas would call this an apartment, it would just be a room, but it’s on the 11th floor and has a nice view of the Hudson River. Nice for New York anyway. I can see a small stretch of river that’s tucked in between buildings and water towers and such. And the lights of Jersey across the water. Often I wake up in the morning and a big cruise shipped is parked right there, blocking most of the river. Rarely does it stay long enough to annoy me though. Quick turnarounds, those cruise ships -- before you know it, off to some exotic destination — hubba hubba. And then there’s my little stretch of the Hudson again. Don’t get me wrong -- the Llano it’s not -- but for now it will have to do.
I’m writing to tell you how sad and upset and sorry I am that I missed your memorial service. The one out on our beautiful river. I was stuck up here, working on my documentary (one of my labors of love that you always championed), and both my schedule and my pocket book didn’t allow me the last minute trip home. I so wanted to come. I should’ve figured it out. I agonized over it. I didn’t make it. You weren’t gonna be there. Any more than you are here with me right now, looking at the Hudson. But it kills me, not getting to stand on the ground of your magical place and hug all your friends, friends like me who loved you so, and bask in your memory.
I figure the best way to tell you this is to send this letter to the Mason County News. I bet you still read the Mason paper -- in heaven. (I assume newspapers as still alive and kicking up there. That’s my idea of heaven anyway.) And I was thinking -- maybe you’ll read my regrets, and maybe you’ll understand, and maybe you’ll forgive me.
I’ll never forget the first time I met you, and stepped onto your tranquil property, and fell in love with both you and it. I’ll never forget those early days of coming out there, holing up for a few days in Walden Cabin, or Hawks Landing, and writing my little butt off. Then drinking wine with you on the porch into the night. Solving the world’s problems. Or just watching for shooting stars. And talking about men. We were both single in those early days. And you were stunningly beautiful. I’m quite sure a whole lot of men came to your B&B and took fly fishing lessons from you solely because of your picture on the website. They didn’t care if you knew what end of the pole to hold. Backlit in the river, you not only stopped trains, you stopped space ships.
Later, you got married again, and I got myself a significant other, and we still spent time together but we had hairy-legged boys around all the time. It changed the dynamics but it never changed an ounce of our friendship. We just had to dance around the testosterone, that’s all, but we were good dancers and our friendship thrived.
A lot happened in the next seven or eight years. You survived a lung transplant, I survived a dry period in Hollywood. You got healthy again, I found my movie legs again. Then the stars changed and shifted again. You divorced, and I parted ways with my man too. Suddenly we were single girls again. And it was scary, and it was fabulous.
I’ll never forget those many nights the last couple of years that we met on the intersection of Hwy 152 and 87, jumped into one vehicle and made our way down the road to the Hilltop. Wine, good food -- just the two of us. More talk about life and the state of the world. Solving, pondering, scheming, fixing. And still talking about men. The fascination, the conundrum, and still wishing on the shooting stars on our drive back home. You were alive, and young, right down the last time I saw you.
I’ll never forget dinners at your place. Or dinners at mine. At your house we would forget technology and just sit on the porch listening to the water rush by, and the crickets. At my place we would watch football or basketball or whatever sport was in season. Though not a real sports fan, you would graciously sit and enjoy all the rest of us who were hanging from the rafters over the outcome of some third rate bowl game. Quietly sipping your white wine like a trooper.
I’ll never forget your smile. I’ll never forget how calm and unflappable you were, and how you made me calmer just being in your presence. I’ll never forget how put together you were. Always. So beautifully simple, so poised, so dignified. But not intimidating. I’ll never forget how happy it made me to see you. I’ll never forget you worrying about me when I went down the wrong path with men, or career, or anything. And how much you wanted me to stop all the madness and just write. I’ll never forget how much you believed in me. And how special that made me feel. And how remarkable you were in every way, and how much I looked up to you.
I’m coming home in a couple of weeks and I’m hoping I can go out to your place and just sit on the porch, or on the rocks near the river. And talk to you. And feel the closeness that I miss so much already. That I missed not being at the service. I long to see your place one more time, that place that meant so much to me, that inspired me to buy my own place on the Llano. Maybe I’ll go at nightfall and you can send me a shooting star. I’ve always thought that’s what a shooting star really is -- someone in heaven you love sending you a kiss.
Meanwhile, I sit here in New York looking at the Hudson. Not the Llano by any stretch. I guess to someone it is. To someone it’s everything, like the Llano was to you and is to me. So for now it’s a good substitute -- until I get home to the real thing.
I miss you Raye, more than you know. I always will. You meant so much to me. I hope you still read the Mason County News.