Some people just get under your skin. Distance and distraction don’t shake them free. I went home this week. That always stirs up memories and thoughts about where friends might be and how they might be. I drove College Station Road and felt one of those ghosts stir in me.
This friend of mine so made me laugh. And she made me feel something better than respect which was the currency of most of my peer relationships: that something was pursuit. She showed me the power of pursuit, what it could do in a life. I was truly cool, distracted and intimidating in my focus. But this girl…she wasn’t afraid of me. She wasn’t put off by all that was designed to cover my many weaknesses. She chose to be my friend, not because we had classes together; we didn’t. Not because we were in activities together and it was convenient, it wasn’t that way at all. She was older, she didn’t need me or my help in any way. I think that she just knew that I needed someone to just ignore all my signals of “Stay away” and “You don’t want to come here.” Maybe she knew that I needed someone to just step on over all my walls. So she chose to spend time with me and to be my friend. I have always so loved her for that.
I can’t help but cry when I think about her…not just in light of her kindness to me. I, the writer and teacher notice things that I don’t try to…I can’t help it. Sometimes I see fault lines and sense the highlight of God’s concern. I noticed those kind of things, even then. I remember how under all the motion and fun and humor, when my friend got still, which was rare, something buoyed by the action, settled heavy. It just made me love her more.
This time when I was home, her name came up again. Driving near her house, I knew it was time to try to return the favor, to pursue her. I found her on FB. She is so successful and busy and well, in many ways just the same. I scanned all her pictures hoping the cleft had closed. But under all that wit and generosity, I can just make it out. I can see it because I love her. I imagine that she will be able to see my frailty as well…and by that I don’t mean my bum knee and my wrinkles that are fast appearing. And I hope that she can see the places that I am so much more whole and those that still gape. I hope see can see past my “togetherness,” to the real me. That’s what makes someone a friend and not an acquaintance: their ability and willingness to see who we really are.
My friend is still real. I cried when I got her fb reply. It was her. Not some grown-up, polished version, not some professional, “in control” persona.
About two years ago, I stood across a pre-surgery hospital bed from my childhood best friend. My sister’s life was in the balance. My friend who had eaten peanut butter crackers on my swing-set with me, who had ridden to school with me everyday, who had been to my birthday parties and had probably been to the bathroom with me a thousand times, stood across that bed as Laura’s doctor and gave me the polished, professional packet. For Laura’s sake alone, I did not deck her ( for her own good.) At that moment, I would have preferred some Indian intern whose name I could never pronounce and who didn’t know me from Adam. Ever since, I have dreaded the possibility of that hellish experience with someone I called/call my friend. I kinda got that sick feeling when I realized that my friend owned and COO’d the fabulous firm where she works. “No…please no,” I begged. I just couldn’t bear it…not from her. I cannot relay the relief that I felt as her message flashed on the screen.
“Bother me? Come on.”
Like I said, I am in the season of returning the favor with my friend. In high school, she used to just show up at my house all the time. Don’t get me wrong; I loved it. My parents loved her. My Mama still talks about her. So, though I promise not to just show up at her work or house without invitation, I am going to drop on by online time to time and just see what she’s up to.