Friends who are suddenly near
Two more have taken the dive and made the well-traveled migration from Point A to New York City, the land for the restless and hungry. She is my oldest, dearest friend, and he is her fiancé, one of the nicest, most genuine people I know: they have said goodbye to their families, to San Francisco, to their beautiful apartment with the bay windows, and flown three thousand miles eastward. Now they are living out of suitcases and duffel bags and sleeping on the small grey sofa-bed in my room while they wait for next week when they can move into the apartment that will be their new home in Brooklyn.
It is nighttime now, and I am sitting by the small wooden countertop in my kitchen, trying to keep quiet; they are both asleep already, because she is a morning person and likes to get up early and because he loves her and is accommodating to bizarre preferences. I am not a morning person, although sometimes I think I could be if I tried, and so I am here still, wide awake at this late hour when the house is at its most quiet and dark, not yet willing to go to bed.
I have been such a solitary person this past year that it is a little disorienting to suddenly have close friends who are nearby and who are not leaving after a week or two but staying for good. I have gotten used to being by myself wherever I go, and although I have met people here whom I would call friends, I’ve become used to feeling alone, even when I am not. It feels strange now to come home and have people there to chat with and to listen to and to talk with about the day—and my mouth feels to me slow and clumsy from disuse when I share aloud thoughts and ideas and observations that have grown used to keeping inside. But it feels wonderful too, and wonderful also to once again have conversations that feel long and satisfying and that stretch late into blue evenings that feel deep and endless. And it’s as if an old, warm blanket that had been lost has now been found and is being wrapped around me again, and I hadn’t even realized how cold I had been.
But this analogy is somewhat deceptive, because the metaphorical cold is always unfavorably judged against its comparisons, when in this particular case, I am not trying to say that one state is categorically better than the other, but just that they are different. Because in truth, as wonderful and refreshing as it is to have good friends here now in New York, I hadn’t really minded the cold in all this time and I still don’t. The quiet has been good for me, and the loneliness curative, as well as humbling. The extensive solitude has given my life a simplicity that feels guileless and honest. It isn’t happiness exactly, but it is not unhappiness either—it is independence, and it is the freedom to be wholly me and nothing else. It is only when I am reminded of how invigorating and exhilarating it can be when I’m with people I love, how complete and uncomplicated the feelings of happiness can be—it is only then that I think there may be something wrong with the way I have been living this past year, and that the lifestyle is unsustainable. And in those moments, I don’t understand why I haven’t been more unhappy about being alone for so long, and I worry if the reason is because I have detached myself further and further away from society and have simply grown used to the isolation.
I increasingly feel a sense of unease when I see people who would be called “crazy”, because the partitions between “normal” and “crazy” have become increasingly faded and blurred to me over the years, like maybe they’d been mirages all along. We all have beliefs upon which our realities are founded and we assign truth to these beliefs because we need anchors in our lives that are stable and because life would be too difficult otherwise; and just as the “crazy” do, we fill our worlds with systems and consequences and definitions that make sense within our worlds. Does it all just come down to lines of relatability then, when we talk about what is crazy and what is not? Too often it feels like the understandings we have of our world, of friends and family, of our own sense of self and sanity, rest on foundations that are not built on solid ground, but perched instead on some kind of precariously delicate and fragile balance—exposed, tender roots resting on a tight rope that sways—and there are days when nothing in this world feels like it can be taken for granted. Even in the simplest of relationships, even in the oldest and most loving of relationships, there are hidden conditions—unspoken agreements between people that need to be honored, certain behaviors and mannerisms and values that one must understand in order to ensure the continuation of friendship and love and empathy and compassion and respect. And what if these conditions are not met and are consistently not met, what then? What if someone grows tired and falls out of sync and off of the scale?
This has all gone way off topic from what I’d originally wanted to write about tonight—I had wanted to write something about that new Joss Whedon movie, The Cabin in the Woods, because we went out to see it the other night and it turned out to be one of the most fun movies I’ve seen in a long time. But then as I was sitting here on the kitchen stool, just about to start writing, it occurred to me suddenly that two of my good friends are sleeping in my room right now, and that I am not alone anymore; and I will probably not be alone anymore in the way that I have been this past year, because she is one of my closest friends and has been for more than half of my life, and when we were in junior high and high school together, we went on long walks together each and every lunch period and we would talk and talk and talk, and afterward, when we got home from school, we would call each other on the phone and we would talk and talk and talk, and later on, when we went off to college, for years we called each other almost every day and we would talk and talk and talk. She anchors me. Her friendship anchors me. Maybe that’s what close and good friendships do—they anchor us to a shared reality that feels real and true because it is shared.