My sister-in-law Heather treated me to one of the best presents of my life. She sent me to see a psychic before I left New Zealand for Australia.
She told me to have some questions in mind for the medium. My thoughts immediately turned to the ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’ genre. Whether I was ever going to have babies, go to Paris, if all would go well in Perth, and whether or not my friend Monica was okay.
Monica used to be my neighbour, and had been a long time friend. She died suddenly in her early-forties, when I was in my mid-twenties. She was a strange hilarious creature, and I have never, nor will I ever know anyone like her. Her passing was one of the most painful times in my life, and five years later, I still think of her on a daily basis. I have a tattoo on the inside of my arm that represents my commitment to experiencing life in her honor.
I carry your heart/I carry it in my heart.
Monica had this thing about dimes. She said they were good luck. She’d find them on the street, bring them home, put them in a jar, save them until she could buy a lottery ticket. I don’t believe she ever won much, but it was a fine system, and she was always happy to find dimes. After she died, I began to see them everywhere. I took comfort in those findings, always thinking that it was her way of saying hello.
Before I left for New Zealand, I went to the cemetery to put a big bunch of flowers on her grave. I don’t go there often, but when I do, I sometimes chat casually, telling stories, explaining circumstances, stuff she already knows. But sometimes I just stand there. While communicating in the silence, I watch mourners maintaining other sites, fussing with flowers, sweeping the headstone, placing decorations. Bless these people; I love that the relationship does not die with the person. That day, I placed the flowers in the vase, stood silent for a long while, and then said “Don’t be a stranger, you come visit me in New Zealand whenever you want”. And so, when the plane landed in Auckland, and every passenger was retrieving bags in the tight space, the women behind me fumbled with her change purse and a dime shot out and landed on the empty seat next to me. And I knew I’d be okay. And this was the last Canadian dime I would see for years. In New Zealand ten cent pieces are brown, like a penny. I carried one of those pieces with me the day I got married.
When I asked the psychic about Monica, she paused for a moment and said that she “wasn’t close” to us. She said that Monica had returned to the universe and was in particles, like stardust. Selfishly, I didn’t love that answer. In fact, I thought she’d have more insights about her, but it was my friend Shannon that she had a lot to say about, but that’s a story for another day.
But hey, stardust is a fair incarnation, good for her. And for a moment it made me doubt the magical dimes, and the presence I connected them to. I find there are periods of time where there are none at all, but if I hear a coin fall on the ground and my head snaps in the direction of the noise. In a sense, even that sounds makes me feel like she’s near. I mention this only because recently, I am finding dimes everywhere. I mean, I’ve always come across them, and take them as a good omen. Now, it’s to the point that I greet the coin as if it were my actual friend. My husband has grown accustomed to my saying ‘Hey Girlfriend!”, to the ground. At Sun Peaks, after the Burton Cummings concert (which made me think of a rousing rendition Monica once did of “She’s Come Undone“), I was sitting next to an empty chair, and my husband noticed that there was a dime on top of, and under the seat. Naturally, I pocketed them, and later, a man dropped a dime and just abandoned it, as if it didn’t have magical powers. I pocketed that too, and couldn’t contain the smiling over my good fortune.
Lately I’ve been waiting tables a few nights a week. Monica taught me about waitressing from her years of working in the Cayman Islands (where she once served Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise–Cruise was nice, Kidman was not), and busy hotspots in Vancouver. Before my first day working for a dinner theatre, she bought a few bottles of wine and made me open them, and serve them to her. She made me carry a tray around her apartment. She gave me advice. She told me how she once served a pre-“Sex and the City”Chris Noth during his “Law and Order” days. She marched up to the table and quotes, verbatim the opening lines of the program.
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.
And then she did a jazzy rendition of the theme song. Apparently Noth was not amused. Which to me, makes the story all the better. She told me horror stories as well, my favorite one being that Monica brought a slew of plates to a table, one of them being a saucy rack of ribs. She handed out the plates, then looked at the only one she had left, and the plate was empty. The ribs had slid unceremoniously onto the patron’s cream colored pants. I think about that whenever I serve ribs, which nowadays is more often than usual. Being back in that profession truly connects me to her. The other day, I was organizing my bill fold, and my counting my change. There were five or six dimes in the modest amount of coinage. Without any reason, the billfold flipped, and just the dimes scattered. I picked them up and popped them back on the counter, and it flipped again.
Very cute Monica. Very cute.
This happened yesterday too, carrying an envelope with money and a dime slipped out and rolled out of reach. “What are you going on about?” I ask aloud. There’s never an answer, only an offering. I accept this (as one must do in situations like these), but wonder if she’s being silly, just having fun. Or if this is a “Ghost” situation, and I’m in mortal danger and she’s trying to get a message to me; but Whoopi Goldberg was too expensive and dimes are the only thing within the budget. Who knows?
Either way, I hope she keeps dropping by unannounced, leaving little reminders for those who loved her. Even though she may be stardust, I’m happy to have the smallest piece of her, even if it’s just spare change.