Now that I’m in Florida, I can hardly talk or write about anything else. It doesn’t matter that the stucco motel called the Seagrove Villas has been torn down to make way for high-rise condos. It doesn’t matter that the architecturally famous town of Seaside two miles away wasn’t even here when a bunch of us used to stay at the Villas. What matter are the memories.
We were college or high school friends, married or unmarried, employed or unemployed. We used to drive down from Birmingham to do the usual things—swim, sunbathe, walk on the beach, listen to music, smoke a little dope, and maybe find love before the battering ram of life took us down.
I had a friend then, a woman I called KK. Those weren’t her real initials, but they served the purpose well. They suggested her playfulness. She worked downtown as an artist in clothing and design. She also had a punk haircut, a taste for dance halls, and a love of the music called New Wave.
KK and I were married to other people, but that wasn’t a problem. We weren’t lovers. We were just close friends. She was the only woman who’d ever said I was handsome, and when we’d meet alone for a beer or glass of wine after work, she would tell me her darkest secrets and I would tell her mine.
One summer day at the Seagrove Villas in Florida, all of us were outside barbecuing and drinking beer. KK was wearing a stylish, multicolored swimsuit, and I noticed there was an irregular dark mole above her left collarbone.
I told her she should have a doctor look at it.
I did some research at the university library and told her again. I’m sure her husband and other friends were relaying the same message, because she finally did go to the doctor, and as you’ve probably already guessed, the diagnosis was malignant melanoma.
Surgeons removed the cancer in situ and wanted to make long incisions on either side to make sure the cancer didn’t spread along paths to the lymph nodes. For cosmetic reasons, KK wouldn’t allow them to do that. She didn’t want the scars.
My ex-wife and I disagree about the last time we saw our friend alive. She says it was the afternoon KK and her husband joined us at the bowling alley for a couple of games. KK exhausted easily, so we didn’t stay long, but at least she must have taken that memory of normalcy back with her to the regimen of experimental drugs.
I’ve always thought that the last time I saw her was when I stopped by to show her our first daughter. KK walked onto her front porch in bathrobe and house slippers. She was only in her mid-20s, but she didn’t last long after that.
She died on the day the Challenger exploded. She’d been watching live coverage on TV.
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