Friends

She smiled when she thought about the times they had shared. That crazy night when they won tickets to the concert and ditched work to go… and she had been introduced to Jose Cuervo. The night she had run interference and kept the roaming hands at bay. Another night when she stepped in just in time to stop a Best Bottoms contest from turning into a Best Thong contest (or worse). The night of the dancers and the Meg Ryan moment. The time they had been pulled over for her climbing in the truck back sliding window – while they were driving down St. Thomas Drive. Kids at the beach. Dancing all night and watching the sun come up from the car on the drive home. Cooking and drinking wine. Marathon conversations. The surgery and the dinner. Painting bedrooms. Meeting guys. Crying and smoking and laughing and shopping. Being understood and accepted. Sharing and discussing every detail of their lives…IN exhauting detail. Having adventures. Flowers and weddings and a funeral. Somehow they had lived through it all. She was not sure how they had made it, but she was pretty sure it was because they had had each other. It had been the 90s, they had been in their 20s and it had been divine.

 

Life was a roller coaster then. Now it is a ferris wheel. Most of the time she liked that better. The slower steady pace, still with its ups and downs, but more predictable and able to take a deep breath and look around and see into the distance. A perspective that life is not just about you and what you feel and experience in the moment. Of course, that got her wondering about what was in store for her 40s. They were right around the corner. Next month she would begin the last year of her 30s – she did not know what she thought about that.

Sometimes she would stop and realize that she did not have any girlfriends anymore. She had friends of a sort. There where the office friends. Those were the ones whose relationship with her was both intimate and superficial. She talked with them about her life – sometimes in detail – and she got advice from them. They did the same with her. They would have lunch on occasion and talk about getting together outside of work. Maybe they would, but probably not. She had become friends with other women like that before. But it was always geographical. Once she had moved they lost touch. They would see each other here and there or online and would always talk of getting together, but it rarely happened.

Lately, the people she really talked to had been her mother and brother. Her mother was not someone she could completely confide in. Her parents’ religious beliefs were rigid and unyielding, making her keep some things to herself, but there were things she could talk to her mother about. If she was upset Mother was always good to talk to because she understood her moods and knew that, if she was yelling, it was only to shed her emotions and not AT the person she was talking to. Mother also knew not to respond with advice, which was important. This was especially true when she was mad. Then her need to rant and rave was almost indomitable. And she did not want to be told what to do; she would ask for advice after she had calmed down and thought about things.

Her brother was better. She could (and did) tell him anything. When they could manage to get together they had a blast and talked about anything and everything. But his life was in turmoil. There were kids and issues galore. Rarely could they spend much time together and even more rarely could they get through all the superficial stuff to get to the deeper stuff. True, he was always there when needed and he always took her calls. When they could get time to talk it was informative and cathartic and she was glad she had him and that he was close by.

She knew she was an introvert who had always had difficulty with friendships. Looking back on her school years she had not really had any friends until 7th grade. She remembered the art class where they had sat at the same table. She remembered how the friendship began to take shape and she was invited over. She had been so thrilled to be invited, and looking back on it, she realized just how sad that was. Maybe it was her natural desire to please others that made her over sensitive to how she was perceived. She was not sure what it was, but she knew she was not good with people. They made her nervous and self-conscious. But she finally had friends. And after those two, she was able to make a few more later on in high school. That first one was still the gold standard to her, even after over 25 years and incredible distance. And, oh, the memories. The White Album backwards, the freezing house wired for sound, the January birthday party, station wagons and Bon jovi concerts, double dates, drinking, sneaking… Green, Purple and Blue…

She often wondered if it was something she did or if she had some aura that turned people off and made them keep their distance. She could talk to anyone and usually did. Superficially, at least. One of the things her boss liked about her was her ability to have a conversation with anyone from the loading dock to the executives. She was great in an elevator ride. She came off as outgoing and talkative, maybe even a little funny. Her secret, of course, was that she was mimicking her mother who actually was outgoing and talkative. She was not. And it seemed that eventually people found out. She would say something that came off wrong. She would tell someone her thoughts and get that raised eyebrow look. Or she would say too much and feel embarassed for over sharing. She was just not good with people. They must sense it. If someone asked her a question, they generally got a quick and honest response – even when she should take her time and think of something a little more generic. Her references were generally not understood and her interests could be outside of the mainstream. Her religious and political beliefs were kept close to the vest as well. She had always been an outsider when it came to those topics and she knew better than to discuss them with many people.

She did have someone she could talk to now and she was just getting used to it. The idea of a guy with whom you did not have to watch everything you said all the time was a new concept – at least as far as relationships went. She could pretty much be herself and it seemed to be ok. Part of her was warry of this. It felt unreal and it was not something she was used to. There were always things off limits – always topics to be avoided and eggs shells to walk on. She was not used to someone understanding her and being ok with all of her quirks – not finding her tastes and ideas strange and her thoughts even stranger. It was nice, hell, it was fantastic and she was enjoying it immensely. But as much as she loved and trusted, some part of her always waited for the other shoe to drop. She tried to temper her happiness and reign it in to contentment since she had always believed happiness is fleeting and contentment was what lasted. But there was no denying she was happy. And that worried her.

Every once in a while, even with her life as good as it was and everything falling into place, there were still times when she would think back to those late 90s days and she would miss them. She wondered if those five years would be the only time in her life when she would have that. It may be. She did not see it happening again. There would be other things that would be good, even great and wonderful, in fact. But there was nothing like that in her life anymore. And because of that, she felt a little sad. Just because what you have is good now doesn’t mean that on some days you don’t miss what was good then – even when the life you have now is the one you would have described as the life you wanted then. So she would tell the stories and relive them on occasion. They would have their marathon chats. They would keep in touch on FaceBook and have a glimpse into each others’ lives. They would get together when one flew in to Atlanta or try and schedule trips to Dothan at the same time. And they would also always have the memories that came with being a best friend.

Originally written March 12, 2010
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