Mystic Writer

Peeking out to see if there is a real world out there...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Friends



The body slap of impact rang through my bones as my car rolled backwards. A bumper lay drowning in antifreeze, and slowly, slowly I realized it was mine. I turned the car off and the sudden silence let the numbness return.

The crash wasn't the cause - the long days had been piling together ever since Gary called last week. He had been my best friend in college, back in the Karen days, and for years after he had moved a thousand miles away we would get together and hike all over the United States.

Ten years ago the calls slowed and we gradually drifted apart. His call inviting me to his parents house on the Thursday before the holiday weekend caught me completely by surprise and I shuffled my schedule to fit in the visit.

As I walked into their house that evening I was struck by the notion that it felt exactly like the first time I'd been there, 27 years ago. I spotted Gary's dad Peter and he called from his easy chair "MW, you look exactly the same as when you came here the first time". The synchronicity of the thought and all the memories that came with it brought tears to my eyes and a warm sense of belonging coursed through me.

He waved "Take mom's chair. Then she won't have any place to sit and interrupt us". I snickered and sat down to the sounds of Shirley yelling at her husband from the kitchen. They've been married more than 50 years and somehow they continually find new ways to lovingly insult each other. It's an art form.

Peter and I talk while Shirley raucously interjects. I don't bother to ask about Gary - I'm in the presence of storytellers and the information will come in it's proper time.

Eventually Gary bursts through the door, talking and waving his hands in good Italian fashion. I'm sucked into a rapid fire five way conversation and nobody bothers to introduce me to the person I presume is his wife. It doesn't matter - as the evening progresses through dinner and desert we learn some details about each other and I feel like I've made a new friend.

The night runs late and I finally tear myself away for the drive home. I arrive back at the treehouse and stay up till 1am trying to round up my camping gear for my first trip out since moving. I'm finally satisfied that I know what I'm missing and make a list of things to pick up from my wife's house when I pick up my son for Friday night.

I collapse into bed for a four hour sleep and rise for work tired. Work is stressful and I take a break in the middle and push myself for a fast six mile hike. I feel drained but better and when it comes time to pick up my son I'm feeling happy and centered. He is as joyful as ever and we go shopping for dinner, then play trains in the treehouse until it's time to bring him back to his mom's.

I pick up the missing camping gear and then spend time getting everything packed. At midnight I slam the trunk a half dozen times until stuff compresses enough for the latch to catch, and I crawl into bed for another short three hours.

I head off to work to put in my eight hours and my wife drops my son off at noon. He and I head out, stopping on the way for a backpack hike and some small town food shopping. We arrive at my cousin Ad's place in the early evening and make camp, then settle in for a game of boche ball. My son finds relatives to play with and the evening is easy and fun.

After sunset we light a bonfire and I tuck my son into a sleeping bag in the tent. He falls instantly asleep and after a while I go back out. Long time friends and relatives are gathered and I think about how I want to tell them about my new status as a single person. I wait for a lull and then start a winding story, intending to lead gently to my point, but as I start discussing changing relationships an old friend interjects with a happy tale of a new love. We discuss that for a long time, and I decide I don't want to temper the sweet glow we all feel, so in the wee hours I take my story to bed with me.

My son crawls into my sleeping bag at first light and I realize I've probably only had 3 hours of sleep. He wants us to create some new stories for his "Boy in Bed book", and we while away the time making up a story about him creating a circus. After that he has me tell him all the other stories we've made up and eventually we can hear the other campers rising.

The day progresses and finally I pack up and we head out. I punctuate the long drive home with stops at parks and we explore several rock formations and waterfalls with me carrying him in the backpack. I deliberately prolong the trip because I know he will fall asleep at some point, and I want that point to be his normal bed time so I can simply carry him in to bed.

He falls asleep at 9 and I drive the last couple hours home. Another midnite crawl into bed, and I wake up at 3:30am to drive north to my parents. They're headed out on an Alaskan cruise and need to be at the airport at 5am.

I stay with them till they pass through security and as I head for my car I realize the temperature and humidity have dropped. It's too good of a morning to spend in bed and so I drive south for an hour and hike through glorious butterfly adorned prairie flowers and steep river ravines for several hours. Eventually I'm physically worn out and I trudge to my car for the long drive home. The walk was meditative and at least my mind feels rested.

The bed in the treehouse beckons but I realize I only have 45 minutes till I need to leave for a date, and I spend the time cooking a pasta dish to freeze for my next weeks lunches. I clean up the dishes and dress in a hurry to dash out the door.

It's another hours drive to the park where I'm meeting my date, and she pulls in just as I'm getting out of the car. She looks trim and fit and we immediately head out for our walk. After seven miles of climbing river valley slopes I realize she hasn't once been out of breath through our two hours of conversation. Finally we stop back at our cars for that awkward moment of appraisal, and she looks me in the eye and tells me "I think I would just like to be friends. I'll give you my number and you can call me when you'd like to do something".

This is almost exactly how the first two dates ended, and there is something about it that is personally frustrating. I think I'm bothered by two things - the first is the need to categorize a relationship on such a brief encounter with no explanation of the reasoning. I had no idea of where the relationship was going at that point, and I don't understand why anything needed to be said. I would really, really like to understand what the underlying message is.

The second problem I have is in laying the onus of making the next contact on me. We are supposed to be friends! Why do I need to do all the work? Again, I don't really understand this message....

I fumble some reply to her, probably hide my frustration since that seems to be my way, and get in my car. The negative feelings combine with exhaustion and I feel myself start to go numb.

The hour drive home passes in a haze, and with a little over a mile to the treehouse I roll past a coffee house that has internet access. I remember that I have e-mails to return and so I quickly turn into a dimly lit parking lot to turn around.

I never saw the concrete wall that oddly bisected the lot.

I shake my head, realize I'm not hurt. I look out to the road and see a woman jaw open staring at me from her car, and I give her a big embarrassed smile. Her jaw drops further and then I see little lines of amusement forming. She drives off and the small introduction of happiness finally breaks me free.

The car is obviously not going anywhere, and so I push it up a hill into a parking space, stupidly taking several tries to finally work out the needed turns of the steering wheel. I sit back in the car and call my insurance company and spend a surprisingly pleasant hour talking with a woman and trying to find any tow truck to come and get me. Everyone is out watching the 4th of July fireworks and the two of us finally conclude that I'll have to wait until morning. She hangs on the line for another five minutes and we simply chat, and when I hang up I feel oddly bouyant.

The neighborhood that I chose to crash in looks pretty run down, and so I haul out my backpack and fill it with all my hiking gear and anything else I think might be valuable. I stuff the pack to exploding and as I lever it to my shoulders I realize it's pushing sixty pounds. I start my walk through the urban landscape and immediately start feeling the pressure I always feel in the city. It occurs to me that it will be helpful to have some rides the following day and I use that as an excuse to call TB as I trudge.

She answers happily and tells me she is out driving around, trying to relieve the pressure she was feeling in the city, and I tell her that is why I called. From there our conversation ranges all over the place, she in her car and me on my feet. I make it back to the treehouse after 45 minutes of walking and still our conversation soars. After another hour and 45 she arrives at her apartment and we finally reluctantly say our goodnights.

I crawl into bed, think briefly about my poor car abandoned and all the details the morrow will bring, then let that train go. I watch the silhouettes of the leaves as they paint the ceiling, let the memories of Gary and Peter and Shirley mix with the thoughts of my son, and Ad, and all my camping friends. I let it all swirl and finally, finally, when there is nothing left at all in me, I touch the connection I still feel with TB, pull it tight, and fall asleep.

Just friends

28 Comments:

  • At 8:14 AM, Blogger Pieces of Me said…

    Hey here via michele! I love your writing! TTYL

     
  • At 8:25 AM, Blogger melodyann said…

    As usual, your post was worth the wait. I was there through every minute of it with you. At least it feels like I was........

     
  • At 9:30 AM, Blogger Carmi said…

    Incredibly poignant.

    I'm luckily over here from Michele's. As always, your writing has inspired.

     
  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger phoenix said…

    MW As always your posts come straight from the heart. I bet you are in person as you are here. Real. These women have no idea what they are missing out on! I would thoroughly love to exchange places with them and see the world through your eyes! By writing about them you give us the chance to do just that. Thank you MW for being who you are. Never change, k?

    Hi from Michele, this time... but I come here often as one of my weekly reads!

     
  • At 10:23 AM, Anonymous lu said…

    MW, you know I don't need an excuse to be here, but I'll give a nod to Michele for sending me your way. ; )

    As always, I am captivated by your storytelling.

    OK, I know it's none of my damn business, but WTH is going on with you and TB??

    Do you really see your connection with her as being unbalanced? Everything you write points to you and her as an inevitability.

    Whatever is holding you (or her) back -- fear? something you can't define at this point?--, *crush* it.

     
  • At 10:44 AM, Blogger Minerva said…

    MW,
    I am so with Lu on this one...
    The connection you have with TB..is that what the other women feel?
    Is that what keeps you centred?
    It seems to be...
    Here, as always, on my own..

    Minerva

     
  • At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Last Girl On Earth said…

    Here via Michele. Great writing. Very inspirational.

     
  • At 11:29 AM, Blogger 4tunit said…

    I agree with the others here. These women just aren't as deep as you or worthy of you. Even though physically it would be appealing and somewhat satisfying... it may leave you feeling empty.

    Keep searching and you will find either TB or someone very much like her and that will be worth all the effort.

     
  • At 2:23 PM, Anonymous colleen said…

    hit a brick wall...metaphorically and otherwise? Hope everything is ok...thanks for you kind words on my site today...here via Michele's M&G.

     
  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger sidhe said…

    The majority of people need to categorize because the majority of people are asleep and if they can put something in a box and tuck it under their pillow, they don't need to wake up.

    You're not in the majority, you're walking around observing, feeling, noticing, going with the flow. It's always a little lonely to be awake while others sleep - but would you trade?

     
  • At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Tatiana said…

    Gentle honest writer, please remain the man you are...

     
  • At 7:51 PM, Blogger mw said…

    Minerva,

    Are you suggesting the other woman are sensing my connection with TB and that is why they are putting me in the friend category? That seems very reasonable - I think it's also possible that I am giving them the friend message, partly because of who I am and partly because I'm realizing I need to really question what I'm looking for relationship wise, both for the short and long term. As always, thank you for commenting!

    Lu,

    As I mentioned above, I am very slowly coming to the realization that I need a different relationship than anything I've had before. I've never had a good relationship - I've had happiness, but it was only through suppression of much of who I am. I need a relationship that gives me autonomy and the freedom to grow and follow my own path.

    I've known this for a while, and for most of my marriage I've had the opinion that there would *never* be anyone I could really be happy with. It was one of the reasons I stayed so long - as bad as it was, I never thought I would be in a better relationship. My wife had her problems, but the real issue for me was that I've never met anyone who I've connected with at the level I feel I need, and I had concluded quite a while ago that I never would.

    I think TB has been building her life around the same assumption I've been operating under - that there just wasn't ever going to be anyone that would fit.

    I've watched her as she has been doing this the last year or so and it has been really obvious that she is happier now than she has ever been....

    (Oh man, the coffee shop I'm commenting at is closing! I need to continue this tomorrow - not necessarily a bad thing as I'm foundering badly - good night all!)

     
  • At 4:57 AM, Blogger mw said…

    I'm glad I was kicked out when I did. I tried to draw a conclusion to the story when I'm still in the messy middle of it all.

    Nothing I said above is untrue, but it is only part of the story.

    I don't actually know what sort of relationship I need or can even handle - I do know what doesn't work for me.

    I think that part of the reason I'm dating is to just try to get more data. I have no intention of hurting anyone, and I have every hope that anyone I end up impacting will come away happier. I don't believe in winners and losers, only winners.

    So, I think I know I can say for myself that I'm not ready for any more of a relationship than I already have, and I think if I asked TB that very same question I think she would say the same.

    ... and that said, the relationship I currently have with TB is the most inspiring and joyful I have ever been a part of, and as long as I don't try to force it into a form it doesn't fit into, I am *truly* happy about things.

    Ooh, I really should know by now not to have a serious discussion in a comment, especially on a topic as complex as this...

    Thank you Lu!

     
  • At 5:29 AM, Blogger mw said…

    Diana, Carmi, Last Girl: Thank you for the kind words, and thank you for visiting!

    Mystic Housewife: This blog has been a gift because I now realize there are others out there who are also 'awake', and that helps the loneliness a bit. Thank you for your insights. And no, I wouldn't trade my life for any other - I'm guessing you wouldn't either. Thank you!

     
  • At 5:30 AM, Blogger mw said…

    Colleen: I can't believe I missed that line - I would have used it in a heartbeat. What a great observation - Thanks!

     
  • At 5:34 AM, Blogger mw said…

    4tunit: Wow, thank you for that - you've been one of the people that have helped me question the nature of relationships, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts as we go forward. Somewhere, some way, there has got to be something better than what we've had.

    You'll find it too!

    (and no, beer is only part of the answer - it isn't the whole thing)

     
  • At 5:36 AM, Blogger mw said…

    Melody,

    I'm glad you were with me in spirit, and I'm equally glad you didn't have to share the physical stress!

    Thank you always!

     
  • At 4:57 PM, Blogger Minerva said…

    MW - that was exactly what i meant..

    Minerva

     
  • At 2:32 AM, Anonymous Ivy said…

    I've never understood the need to classify a relationship upon first meeting. But at the same time I've easily known at first hand that a person will never be more than my friend. But friendship is very mutual thing. Its when one can call the other and say,"hey lets go grab a bite to eat". There is no who should call who there. again, great post..

     
  • At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Charles said…

    Fantastic writing... very enjoyable. I'll be back for more!

    Charles
    Hong Kong

     
  • At 3:40 AM, Blogger Ally said…

    Beautifully written.

    Might the 'just friends' thing be a way of keeping prospective partners at a distance for a while longer? I know in the past I've told guys I've been interested in that I want to be 'just friends' - when really what I've meant is: 'don't lets rush things because although I like you, I'm not sure how much and I don't want you to leap on me yet'.

    Admittedly, it would be much more straightforward to just say that :/.

     
  • At 3:12 AM, Blogger Nicky said…

    Hey MW
    Where are u?

     
  • At 8:31 AM, Anonymous lu said…

    Just droppping by to say you are missed...

     
  • At 10:44 PM, Blogger Cliff said…

    Wow. I have no idea how I missed your blog up until now! Adding you to my blogroll now (thanks for already adding me, btw) and I'll be a regular visitor!

     
  • At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i wish i was as invisible as you make me feel........

    ~m

     
  • At 4:29 AM, Blogger phoenix said…

    Sigh, Mystic you are sorely missed. Please let us know if you are ok. I check back periodically. One can keep praying that you do and are.

     
  • At 8:32 AM, Blogger Carmi said…

    Too bad the comment spammers don't write nearly as well as you do! At least then we'd have something fun to read after they leave.

    Thanks again for keeping the words flowing. I enjoyed reading this entry again - sort of like an old friend.

    Popped in from Michele's again. I hope you continue to crank out the words.

     
  • At 8:32 AM, Blogger The Mistress of the Dark said…

    Beautiful photos.

    Here via Michele's

     

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