The greatest compliment anyone has ever paid to me:
“You’re always the same. No matter what group of people you’re with, you never change who you are.”
“I don’t know how to be anyone else.”
A couple of weeks ago I went to lunch with a friend. A good friend. A close friend. The bail-you-out-of-jail kind of friend. I know for a fact she’s this kind of friend because of that one time when she bailed me out of jail. Not a proud moment for me.
I met her when she was just nineteen. We were at a house party and she was new to the core group of friends that were our hosts. She once told me that she was afraid of me that night we first met. Back then I had a tendency to wear black t-shirts with long shorts and Dr Martens 1460s. My hair was cropped very close to the scalp and a goatee dropped from my chin. She said she thought I was a drug dealer.
I would never have seen her again except she started dating one of my friends. So I would see her on weekends when all of us would get together for parties, barbecues, like that. She wasn’t old enough to drink at bars save for The Office Bar and The Double Down. Cute girls just had to flirt with the bouncer to get in and she was extremely cute. Getting to know her was such fun. She was outgoing, humorous and always added to the positivity in the room. We began hanging out more and more.
Over the years we became very close. We spent so much time together that she’d become my best friend, and I didn’t even realize it. It wasn’t until someone was asking about “my best friend” that I realized how much of an important part of my life she’d become. I responded, “Oh yeah, Mikey’s great!” He said, “Mikey? I meant the girl.” I paused for thought and realized it was true.
It had its bumps, I mean what long term friendship is ever perfect? There was a period of time when my deep caring for her turned to feelings of love. It wasn’t reciprocated. That fucked everything up for all the usual reasons I won’t go into. I’m sure you know what I mean. It was an emotionally tumultuous couple of years for me. Luckily, we both weathered that storm and came out of it still very tight.
Time goes on, ya know. And it’s been ten years now since all that went down. And I’ve always held it in my mind as an unshakable truth that our friendship was solid and would always be that way. Then I came to a realization…when we went to lunch a couple of weeks ago.
It was a Thursday when we met for lunch. We work less than a mile away from each other so getting together for lunch during the work week is easy. We’d made a habit of meeting almost weekly and nearly always on Thursdays. But on this particular Thursday there wasn’t much conversation. In fact, we joked about how neither of us had anything to say to the other. We passed it off as a side effect of staying in touch too often, almost daily via text messages, and concluded that there was no catching up to be done since we communicate often. Perhaps this is true in large part. But the last decade has given us time to become two very different people now.
The glaring truth is: outside of our history together, we have little in common. If one were to compare her leisure time against mine, one would see that there is hardly a trace of crossover. Our interests don’t intersect either. The older I get, the more docile my life has become and the greater part of my activity takes place in my mind, which is in striking contrast to her outdoorsy, on-the-go lifestyle. They could make an action figure out of her.
People come in and out of our lives all the time. The overlap makes life rich and enjoyable. I’m not saying I believe she and I will eventually drift apart completely. I really do think we’ll be friends to the end. Of course the degree will wax and wane. All I’m saying is that right now it feels like it’s waning sharply. And I wish our current friendship was something more similar to what we had back in our heyday together. I miss those times. More specifically, I miss those times with her.
He told me about three weeks before Christmas. I was kind of caught off guard a little. He’s 51. When he told me, I asked the usual questions: What?! Where is it? How bad is it? How did you find out? Is there any pain? Who have you told? What do we do next? I came up with more questions in response to some of the things he was telling me. Many of the questions he didn’t know the answer to as he was still waiting for blood results and therefore hadn’t yet scheduled a consultation with a surgeon. Much to my surprise, my initial reaction was one of anger. One would think it would be sympathy. But I was angry. “This is one of the finest human beings I’ve even had the pleasure of knowing! The world is better because he’s in it. This is so unfair! Who’s fucking bad decision-making led to this?” But once I calmed down, I came to my senses and settled on something I already knew: Life’s not unfair…it’s just indifferent.
Fast-forward a couple of months.
Mikey had his surgery just over a week ago. They removed a portion of his small intestine. All went as planned. I was very relieved. During the procedure, the surgeon took some samples to biopsy. We’re waiting to hear those results. In the meantime, I’ve prayed multiple times for his complete recovery.