Friends, Things I Can

23. Things I Can Circle: The Square

She was single when I met her. We danced with the drag queens at the gay bar that used to be north of town. We cut pictures of beaches out of magazines to make vision boards. We ate blueberries at the omelet restaurant on a sunny winter morning and carved pumpkins in a neighbor’s back yard the next fall. One New Year’s eve, we stood in a circle and dropped in one word we’d like to invite into our lives. The next, we hooted and played as the ball dropped.

We’ve never done any of these things alone together. She lives in one of the outer rings orbiting around me. I suspect I orbit a little further out from her. She’s just so much more connected, so much more vibrant. She has a bright smile and and slaps her leg before adjusting her glasses when she laughs. We always greet each other with a hug.

We are friends through friends, spurred by proximity and the bountiful event-planning of our more social girlfriends.

Her tight circle, the close-in one, is well-populated. This seems to be the case for many women I know. I tend to float around out on the edges of knots of friends, going on hikes alone and showing up at the contra dance or zumba class after months of absence. This friend is more like my sister, who has always been so good at weaving elaborate social ties. Mine are individual threads. They are strong in their way, but not braided together — Grace and Mina and Loki are all my girls, but Grace and Mina and Loki don’t know each other.

I know I bring on this drifty distance by my choice to savor solitude. As a result, I never have any expectation that the circle I inhabit is close to the center. When I find myself in intimate connection, I recognize it as a rare and fleeting gift.

This girlfriend? We’ve known each other four years now. She’s getting married in May. Her fella also has a big smile. He’s funny in that after-a-beat way. They have a kick together. They cook, they travel, they have big families in the area, all part of an even bigger community of loved ones. When she talks about her wedding planning, she sparkles even as she rolls her eyes at the wackiness of it all. They are mapping out the celebration of the life they’re building together. In little slivers of conversation between improv games or Mary Kay samples, she shares a detail and a giggle with me.

Even as single and solitary as I am, their fun doesn’t make me ache. They are lovely in their goofiness, and she is clearly having a delightful time in the world she now inhabits with her fella. Truth is, strong friendship ties and a caring intimate relationship are two things I’d like to cultivate in my life. It’s nice to see two folks sharing their hope and good thinking. It reminds me that a person patches a vision together — like anything else — one stitch at a time.

This is acceptance. It is so very grown up.

Then I open the mailbox.

And there’s the invitation.

Equanimity, meet Glee.

Completely, joyously unexpected. With all the other people they keep near, it never even occurred to me that I’d make the cut. Invitation lists are impossible. Family is always first, and the rest of the guests must be limited to the dearest ones. I remember how much it stung when Tee and I looked closely at our rings of friends to determine who we could and couldn’t afford to include.

Somehow, this girlfriend decided I could be a part of their celebration.

I’m not sure what I did right, but I want to do more of it. I feel so totally lucky, loved, and excited. It’s not just an invitation to a wedding. It’s as if she’s slipped into the envelope this tiny golden key and said, “Here. Welcome to the circle. Come in when you’re ready.” It’s up to me to step over the threshold and take my place in the waiting warmth of the friends already right here in my life.

I circle the square on the calendar. May 24. Between now and then, two full pages filled with squares.

Every one, a day waiting for me to draw myself in.

Every one, a chance to be the friend she’s inviting me to be.

5 thoughts on “23. Things I Can Circle: The Square”

  1. This got me in the gut. I’ve never been a bridesmaid, and the last wedding I was invited to was 4 years ago. I’m older now so not many people I know are still getting married, but still…
    Yesterday I spent with old HS classmates and that was a reminder of all the loose dangling threads I swung from, one to the other.
    I’d like to feel I’m in an inner circle too someday.

    1. Loose threads. Yes. It’s good to know others have this sense too, and so many of us are eager for closeness. There is something here about acting as the friend and neighbor I wish I had in my life. Maybe behaving as if that affinity is germinating, even in the absence of evidence, is what invites it to grow.

  2. This is so familiar to me. I didn’t use to cultivate solitude like I do now and I always have had friends, but always from the periphery. Never that big group of belongingness. I have my friends but I am always aware that they have closer ones, the bridesmaids in their lives. I’ve never been a bridesmaid.

    I just have to mention, too, that I really loved the title you picked for this and the way you worded those thoughts about circling the square on the calendar. You have a knack for writing in a lyrical way while simultaneously making your story utterly relatable.

    1. Yes, I feel this sense of intermittent closeness without belonging. I know it’s my own way and if I want to change it, it’s up to me to be the friend I want to have. It’s nice to work on it without fretting. So many paths are good ones.

      Your words are very kind. Thank you for reminding me to keep writing, even when the days feel anything but lyrical.

      1. Oh the work I find kills the lyrics. Thank YOU for reminding me why it’s good to keep writing, even when I feel it no longer matters.

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