Monday, June 27, 2011

unDATE#22: Lumbering Jack

I met this guy a few years ago and everything rational inside of me said "run the other way," maybe that's why I was so drawn to him because it felt so wrong to know and want to be with him. But some magnetic force destined us to be friends. It wasn't just any kind of friendship that developed, it was a tumultuous, stormy friendship with no known direction and no destination but unexpected and exciting and the kind of friendship you don't want to let go you just want to hang on and see where it takes you.

Of course, a girl like me isn't good at holding on and hoping. At a certain point, I need know where my road is going to take me or I need to lead the way. Sometimes even good friendships dissipate if someone won't hold on to it, if one party doesn't make the effort to reach the other, it can all fall apart. And often, it's because we just get older and we get tired of being the only one on the road. I got tired of not knowing what this friendship was or wasn't ever going to be and so I went on hiatus. It took more force than it should have but some friendships run deeper than others and trying to pull the roots out hurt more. This sounds silly, but it's true of any friendship - I've done the same with girlfriends when sometimes you need to sever the bond just to see where it might grow back, if it's even supposed to.

But what do you do when it's a guy, a friend, and you suddenly want it to be more?

You wait, you let them come to you. And maybe, 5 months later, they do.

He harassed me for a week to hang out, like old times, like friends who haven't seen each other in a long while. The tension I felt left in the air couldn't be cut by a thousand knives if they tried.

We were supposed to do lunch, but he was late and I was sick. So we met for a movie. And the moment I saw him, it all came rushing back. That feeling that if he asked me to run away to the Amazon with him tomorrow, to learn a dead language, live in the trees and watch him take pictures of unknown birds, if he asked - I would go. And a feeling like that makes me feel foolish and not like the strong-willed woman that I am, but it also... feels really good. Like he and I, we could do anything.

He bought two tickets to "Tree of Life" and made some stupid jokes with the ticket seller that made me blush. He offered popcorn, which I bought and he thoughtfully asked for a second empty bag so we wouldn't have to share my sick germs, which was kind of sweet. We sat in the theatre, he let me pick the seats, and caught up on 5 months in the 20 minutes before the movie started. We even talked through all the previews. Halfway through the film I was cold, he gave me a shirt and I wondered, while some mundane voice-over was being said in the film, what about him has changed that I can't place?

I used to tell myself, if I'd met this guy three years from now, instead of two years ago, we'd have a different story.

At the end of the movie, which lasted a lifetime, we both walked out with a feeling of "What the F-?" I guess that's Terrence Malick for you... but looking back the film is a perfect surrealist metaphor for relationships with the unknown, just like our friendship. The whole feeling of "this is nice, this feels good, this is beautiful, this is terrible, why are we like this, but I can't stop being" sums up the three hours (so save yourself).

After the movie we went for a quick dinner. I had a soup and he graciously offered to share his pad thai, he even made a plate for me in a sweet, compassionate way. I never would have described him as compassionate - selfish yes, egotistical yes, slyly charming absolutely. But this time I believed his kindness was genuine not sarcastic like mine, and all I could think to say was "damn this bizarre friendship we have..." and he shrugged like he already knew everything I was thinking and feeling as any true friend would, no doubt. He paid before I had time to reach for my wallet.

We walked to the corner for trains in different directions. He offered a cup of coffee so he could charge his phone somewhere but I needed to get out of there before splitting in two. We said our goodbyes 3 feet apart in the center of a busy Manhattan street corner as people walked between us and around.

"So, this was nice"
"We'll get together again soon"
"Yeah, we won't wait so long next time"

Actually, I don't remember what we really said or who said what, I remember a hug and half pat on the back and having to reach over his backpack with my arm trying to pull him towards me. We both walked backwards in opposite directions crossing separate streets. And I hated him again as soon as I turned away. It's a self-preservation thing.

As I walked back to the L, I thought, if this had been a real date, it would have been great. It would have ended in a kiss, I would have gone for that coffee and I wouldn't have walked away so confused. I told myself all the same excuses as to why I couldn't make a move. The only one with any value is that if I lose this friend, no matter how stormy the friendship is, I'd be devastated. There are some friends for whom it's worth fighting, even yourself, to keep, and I can count them with 3 fingers.