Nora, Nora, Nora

(A letter to a friend)

Cut me some slack re: the title's terrible pun. I simply can't get your name out of my head. I can hear your pained groan, and I can almost feel the subsequent pinch on the sensitive part of the inside of my arm. You did that a lot, actually. The pinching. That was an annoying side effect of your friendship. But I wish I could look down and see one of those bruises right now.

You're probably not too psyched about this format, either. "Tacky," you'd say. "Schmaltzy." Well, suck it up, sista. I'm hoping for a little catharsis, here. God knows I need it.

You died Wednesday night. Collapsed while shooting baskets on the set of the TV show you oversee. I think you'd be okay with going out like that. But you would've preferred softball to basketball. Better yet, drinking a beer at Fenway. Day game.

Nora O'Brien. All due respect to Maureen O'Hara, you had the prettiest Irish name I've ever heard. And a smile to match. How did you keep your teeth so damn white despite the cigarettes? (Jesus, the things I think about at times like this.)

Just a five-minute hangout with you guaranteed a witty remark, an insightful observation and an argument - not necessarily in that order. You'd gladly argue that bears do not always defecate within the confines of the forest, or that the Pope's headwear is not, in fact, humorous. And you could win those debates. Really annoying.

You cheered me in my writing. Despite the demands of your job as an executive at NBC/Universal, you always took the time to read my drafts. You stressed the positives while gently offering spot-on suggestions. You even emailed Bill Simmons, ESPN's "Sportsguy," in the hopes that your shared Red Sox fanaticism would be enough to get him to read my book and maybe plug it on his website. Thanks for trying. I bet a lot of your colleagues don't know you're a writer, yourself. I begged you how many times? But you never let me read your stuff. "It's not ready." Just like you; so upbeat with others and so hard on yourself.

You looked incredible in a baseball cap.

Our night at the 2007 Emmy's will forever be in my top-10. Thank goodness you didn't have a boyfriend at the time! You and your female coworkers got your makeup done by a professional beforehand. The look on your face when you saw yourself in the mirror was priceless. Check me out! Remember doing the extra lap around the "Friday NIght Lights" table during dinner? Kyle Chandler will never realize what an opportunity he missed that night!

I can't remember the last time I saw you. Not sure if that's normal or not. But I know the last time we had a beer in a bar.

We watched Boston College beat Notre Dame for the fifth time in a row (see above "annoying" comment). You, however, didn't gloat. You just sorta leaned in and nudged me with your shoulder. "Next round's on me."

Six months later I still owe you one. (Reader(s): Think about somebody you owe a drink. This weekend, pay up. You'll feel a lot better one day, trust me.)

Nobs, I'm picturing your last moments. You're laughing in that throaty way of yours, grooving on the camaraderie and friendly competition. You're wearing your faded Sox hat.

I like to think you hung the net on your last shot.

This can't be real, can it? Nora, pinch me. Please.