A month after my best friend died, I received a box from her in the mail. I was shocked, to say the least. Attached to the box was a note dated a week before she passed away. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting; maybe a sweet goodbye letter, or one of those scavenger hunts she loved to send me on to find my birthday gifts. Instead I got instructions for her bucket list.
After the initial shock wears off, I pour myself a glass of wine and take the note, the box, and the rest of the bottle outside to the porch because I have a feeling this is going to be a full bottle of pinot kind of evening.
It’s beautiful out, a mild spring day. The sun slowly settles behind the mountains, turning the sky lavender and the clouds bright orange. I place the box on the patio table and dust my chair off before I sit. I haven’t sat out here since Kia and I …
I let the thought trail off. It’s still difficult to think about the good times with Kia when the bad times are still at the forefront of my mind.
Inside the box is a stack of envelopes, each with a number on the front. At the bottom of the note are instructions. I read those carefully to make sure I don’t miss anything because my mind is still spinning from getting a package from beyond the grave. It’s difficult to keep focused after something like that.
Each envelope is an item on the bucket list. The rules are to complete one challenge—I’m not sure what else to call them since I have no idea what’s waiting for me—before I’m allowed to open the next. At the end of the list of instructions, she asks if I could please do her bidding in a timely manner. I can’t help but smile. Kia was always a bossy bitch and I loved her dearly for it.
Tears fall without warning and I have to take several calming breaths to keep from exploding into rage and ugly crying, blaming the universe for taking her too early, for taking someone so good at all. I mean, there are so many horrible people in this world; why take her?
I shake my head and wipe away my tears. Focus.
I re-read the instructions. “What do you have up your sleeve?” I ask the wind, hoping that Kia is out there in the cosmos, the heavens—anywhere—listening.
I pour myself another glass of wine and take a drink before opening the first envelope. In simple, Times New Roman text, it says:
When’s the last time you got laid? You don’t remember, do you? Same here. Being sick will really put a damper on your love life, if you know what I mean. I really miss having fun with a hot guy. I’m sure you do too, right? Well, it’s about time to get back on the saddle. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to go on Tinder or Craigslist or anything like that. I already have someone picked out for you. Remember that hot guy who works at the tattoo shop across from the bar? Yeah, that guy. I’m not asking you to fall in love with him, but get laid for fuck’s sake.
Next to it is a smiley face emoji.
Have fun and be safe!
I choke on the wine still in my mouth and beat on my chest, trying to cough the liquid from my lungs before I drown. My neighbor is in her front yard in her mu-mu and floppy sun hat picking the weeds from her garden. She looks up at me and I wave to let her know I’m all right.
“What the hell, Kia?” I say.
Not long before Kia’s heart condition got worse, we’d been at a bar, tipsy and laughing at everything. I’d never been to that particular bar before, but it had a great vibe and played good music. We were sitting in a booth, talking about work, when Kia noticed the guy in the tattoo shop across the street. He was hunched over a client, laser-focused on the tattoo he was creating. Even from across the street it was easy to see how beautiful he was. Muscular arms covered in bright ink that flexed when he moved his hand, a jawline you could cut a steak with. When he sat up and smiled, that’s when he really shined. It was like looking through the glass at a zoo at some rare animal, all sleek lines and powerfully built, a little dangerous, maybe.
Kia started tugging on my arm and pointing at him. “Oh my God, Fiona, look at that.”
“Trust me, I am,” I said.
Oh, the things we talked about doing to that poor guy. Kia called dibs, but it never went further than that. We saw him several times after when we’d go to that bar with our other friends. We always talked about going across the street and introducing ourselves, but he was always with clients and neither Kia nor I were brave enough to cut in and risk embarrassing ourselves in front of him.