She is sitting across from me in a vinyl booth in a sad excuse for an Italian restaurant. We order the same thing and then pick it apart for the same reason.
“Not enough cheese!” She complains, mixing the noodles together tirelessly.
“Seriously, a dish with ‘cheese’ in the title better have a superior level of cheese in it. I should be eating cheese with every bite. There should be three levels of cheese here…”
The conversation drifts in and out from topic to topic without pause, without time to breathe, let alone eat. We touch on everything: parents, friends, love, soul mates, politics, food, travel… I have found a kindred spirit in this girl after, for so long, I have felt empty.
I don’t have the best track record with girls. First, I was naive and trusting and had my heart broken by those devious backstabbing types; the kind that riffled through your drawers and lied to your mother. It didn’t matter that she stole my first love; if he wanted to go, I would have let him. More over, it was the pain of betrayal. There is a girl code, I thought, and she broke it. Who breaks it? I wouldn’t have.
Then, there was a litter of friends who were friends, yes, but never a best friend again. Never, a stay up all night talking, tell everything to, type of friend. I was burned once and didn’t think I’d let myself near a fire again.
Of course, then I was burned again, anyway. That was a special case. I will never get over the pain of having a friend choose a guy, what used to be your guy, over the bond they shared with you. When it’s not love, when it’s not forever why irrevocably damage a friendship you have been building for years? It was all downhill from there. I gave up on girl friends, for awhile. I gave up on kindred spirits, on finding yourself in someone else, on the support that only a best friend can give. I gave up on all of it and sought refuge in the arms of overly needy men. Men that provided me with the bare minimum of what a real girl friend might. I spiraled out of control.
Finally, there was A. After years of emptiness, of just getting by, I found someone who got me. We were inside each other’s heads. We could finish each other’s sentences, we could spend every second of every day together and still have a million things to say to each other. We accepted each other, no holds barred, completely as we were. And we told each other everything. Friendship like that is a forever kind of thing. She’s gone now, on the other side of the country, but she gave me something that I will never let go of: the hope that these kinds of friendships can exist and the ability to cultivate them, once again.
We get lost in a Chapters maze. Finding and losing each other easily and fluidly throughout the store. I am at peace with her and in our friendship. We muse over books together, laugh at the same jokes, reach for the same things, plan the future like it will always be there glinting at us just behind the glass. I want to tell her how much I admire her. Her strength and her confidence and her opinions. But, I just smile at her instead. I want to tell her how safe I feel, here in her friendship, now that I have finally stopped running. Now, that I no longer expect the worst. But, I just point out a novel she should read, instead.
There are friends that come into your life and change you either by taking from you your solid ground or lifting you up to someplace new. There are friends who use you, abuse you, sniff and then discard you like wilted greens. There are friends who want you to be one version of yourself, always. So you are, for them. There are friends that are friends in name only when sly like black cats they creep behind your back. There are friends that want you to fail, want you to fall, want you to break apart in order to lift from the wreckage a reflection of the best parts of themselves.
And then, every once in awhile, you might find these friends. Best friends. My friends. Friends who want you to succeed so much that they push you past your boundaries and drive you on. Friends who take those broken pieces and help you rearrange them into something new, something beautiful and never stop reminding you that this is what you are, what you can be. Friends that remind you what friendship is and is supposed to be. A meeting of minds, and hearts, and dare I say it? Souls. These friends are a forever kind of thing. A bond that time and distance can’t shake. I am fortunate to have finally, in my travels, found girls like these that will stand by my side against all odds. I am fortunate, indeed.