Monday, November 20, 2006
I'm feeling all philosophical and intense today... probably makes it a good thing that I don't work on Mondays. Last thing a suicidal ER patient needs is for me to ask them, "What is the nature of friendship?"

Or, who knows? Maybe that would be a magical cure-all.


My current preoccupation falls along the lines of friendship. Specifically what it is, what it means, where its limits fall, and so on. Never fear, I'm not going to get into one of those sophomore year of college with a few too many beers lying out in a field (or on the roof of a fraternity house, not that anyone I know ever did such a thing) expounding on deep intense topics before the buzz wears off. I'm just going to throw out a few incidents from the past few years, so you can see why it's been on my mind.

Vignette #1 comes to us from sunny Las Vegas. Molly lives there now. She and I met in eighth grade, and were close for a long time. Got even closer after I went away to college, somehow. She was always the wild one, and I could live vicariously through her partying and uninhibitedness. I left high school a year early to go to college about 50 miles past the Land That God Forgot in really really northern New York, and she would come visit me, seduce/intimidate several of my friends, and generally shake things up. When she went to college, in Buffalo, stories of her exploits would reach me, 300 miles away, through people that didn't realize we were friends. She seemed free-spirited, but I now recognize more than a few signs of desperation and trauma in her impulsiveness and bravado.

But she had a good heart, and we enjoyed each other. She helped break down the door after a bad incident between myself and a 19-year-old sophomore with an off-campus apartment and access to GHB. I convinced a friend to drive the four hours to pick her up and bring her back to school with me for a week when she started to pull apart at the seams. It was intense and real and important.

Over time, she got married, had a baby, got divorced, and moved to Vegas. Which seems entirely appropriate, because there's no other town on the planet with quite the splash to handle this fantastic spirit who - admittedly with my help - got topless at a frat party just for the hell of it a few years after her daughter was born. Who arrived at my daughter's baptismal party, the day after my wedding, still wearing her maid of honor dress, arriving with five flustered friends of Willem's. And what's funny is, she's actually quite careful and circumspect in her private life, and she's a CPA, of all things. You'd just never know it to look at her.

Our friendship was always undemanding. We could go months without being in touch, and then suddenly, with a phone call, it was like we'd never missed a day. But those months kept stacking up, and recently I realized I haven't spoken to her in two years. I miss her terribly, but now that I'm aware of the amount of time that has passed, I'm self-conscious and awkward about calling her. So I'll write, and soon, because she's turning 30 in a few months and she needs to know that I still love her.

So, there's that. And then, for Vignette #2, there's someone whose name I won't use here, because I respect her privacy and I think she reads this, or used to. We met via a message board, which despite my early doubts has actually given me some true, close friendships. This particular woman lives somewhat near me, not right in the same town but close enough that we could get together once in a while. So we would, and we'd chat, and watch our kids play, and I enjoyed her company. I thought she enjoyed mine.

This summer, there was a day when we were supposed to meet at the beach, but I got my schedule all screwed up and was running late, and ended up having to call to cancel. She was upset with me then, because it turns out that she hates the beach and never wanted to meet there in the first place. I felt guilty but not terribly responsible; I'm happy to go elsewhere if a day at the beach isn't, well, a day at the beach for someone.

Then a few months ago, we were chatting again and planned to meet at a playground on a Thursday afternoon. I wrote it down for a certain date. A week before that date, my phone rang, "I'm at the playground now, where are you?" Of course, I felt horrible, guilty, disorganized, frazzled and all of the other things you might expect of a mother of two who had just returned to work full-time for the first time in many years. I stammered an apology, explained that I had the wrong date, and her response was, "Whatever. Everyone has problems."

She's right, of course. Everyone does have problems, and she was dealing with some especially intense ones at the time. And my screwup was rude and annoying, and trying to explain how it happened obviously sounded like I was making excuses. Fair enough.

I've had no further communication from her, either by phone or in response to the email I sent. I'm not heartbroken over a lost friendship; I enjoyed her but didn't rely on her as a primary source of support. I was just disappointed and shocked at how abruptly and easily she ended a relationship.

And for Vignette #3, well, I can't say what, just yet. Someday, remind me, and I'll be able to talk more about it. Well, realistically, just hang on a few months, if it ends up happening then there's no earthly way I would NOT be able to write about it.

Suffice it to say, a close friend has floated an idea by me. And I think I can do it for her. It's a big deal, and I'm honored that she would even consider asking me, and I'm going to stop talking right now because her privacy is more important to me than my aimless babble here.

What I can say here is that it has caused me to reexamine just how far I would go for a friend, what I could consider asking of someone, and what does this all MEAN anyway?

My brain is tired. I'm going to go find a countdown show on E! and see if I can't let some of this deep-thought stuff dribble out onto my shoulder for a while.