Me: “Blow out. Friday night. It’s gonna be awesome.”
M: “Wait. I have to put it in my calendar.”
Me: “Can’t wait. I might not even wear a bra.”
Just a regular monday night conversation with my dear friend M. M taught me to say “dear friend.” She doesn’t say “my friend L.”; she says “my dear friend L.” I find that charming, so I have adopted it. Last night we got together over roast chicken and salad (M), veggie pho and edamame (me), and an irrepressible need to debrief our day, our hearts, our lives. We sat at the dinner table. We did dishes. We sat on the couch. Then on the other couch. I even sat on the kitchen counter at one point. That’s because there isn’t an inch of her house that doesn’t feel comfortable and welcoming. There isn’t an inch of her house she hasn’t made available and I haven’t adopted.
We met a year, a week, and a day ago. I was sat at a small desk in a shared clinic office poring over patient charts. She was sat behind a big ol’ wooden desk, as one would expect a teacher to. She asked me a question, something about what I like to do outside of medical school. I mentioned the theater. She told me of this play a college friend of hers was involved with. We picked a date. I drove us over the mountains to Harrisonburg in my shiny new car (and learned we drive the same car). We stuffed out faces at a funky dinner called The Little Grill. We saw an incredibly beautiful, heart-wrenching, brand new play about a girl, her cancer, and dinosaur. I cried, sat next to dear M in that little theater over the mountains. I cried for the girl in the play. I cried for myself – only too recently separated and severely depressed. But mostly I cried because it felt safe to cry around dear M.
Love affairs are akin to the aorta, the carotid arteries, or the vena cava. Big strong vessels that carry life at a dizzying speed, but sometimes collapse because of a bump in their path. A clot, a tumor, an air bubble. The blood flow becomes turbulent, havoc ensues, and we are left debilitated. Friendships are like the thousands of capillaries that course through our bodies. Capillary blood flow may be slower and less turbulent, but it carries life-sustaining nutrients to the farthest corners of our bodies. Each capillary vessel wall is only one cell thick. One cell separating the blood from the surrounding tissue. One cell strong. When the love affair crumbles, when the pink slip shows up, when life deals us a shitty hand, friendships are the relationships that sustain us, nourish us, and nurture us. Just like a capillary vessel finds it way to our toes to deliver oxygen (food) and remove carbon dioxide (waste), a friend delivers compassion and takes away sorrow.
Many of us have childhood friends who will always be part of our lives. Many of us have made some of our best friends in high school or college. Those friendships are special because they were forged during formative years and benefited from the luxury of time; time to learn everything about each other, time to grow together, time to drift apart and reunite. Adult friendships are trickier. We meet a lot of people, as our Facebook pages attest to, but how many life-long friends do we really make? As adults, we keep our cards closer to our chests because we’ve been hurt before. We have lost that childhood innocence that propelled us toward other people without fear of being judged or turned down. Unless the right person comes along. In the span of a year, a week, and a day, dear M and I have forged a friendship that I know will last a lifetime. I may not know every detail of her life before we met, but I will, in time. I love M because she’s funny. Because she’s smart and laid back and sincere. Because she helps kids with cancer keep up with their school work. Because she runs and travels and plays the ukelele. Because she’s the most grounded and intentional person I know. Because she gives love freely and asks for nothing in return.
Over the weekend, M came to opening night of the play I am producing. We sat next to each other, and ribbed each other in unison because we know exactly what makes the other giggle. The next day, we sat in her house in baggy sweaters, our bellies indisposed from a greasy brunch earlier. We analyzed our respective dates from the night before. We went to Wendy’s. M was adamant we needed to fight grease with grease. We spent $10.81. I was home by 7.30pm. This is who we are. We are girls who can do it up for the theater one evening and hit the drive thru the next day. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy friend-aversary, dear M. I am so grateful you are in my life.