Tuesday, April 4, 2017

We Can Still Be Friends

With time you learn there are various levels of friendship.

Even the guys down on Leigh Street selling crabs are sort-of-friends, in that we see each other regularly, speak often and, above all, they were ready to open a can of whoop-ass when they heard what some guy had said to me as I walked through the neighborhood. Today, it was letting me know that crabs are in already. Casual but steadfast acquaintances.

There's FotoBoy, a friend of the past 8 years (with whom I had two dates before we were smacking our foreheads and realizing we wanted friendship) who is pretty much at my beck and call when I need an extra mouth for work. That we can talk about the nitty gritty in our lives only adds to the depth of the friendship. That he appreciates how excited I get when a train conductor waves at me is gravy.

There's the friend I'm still getting to know who's given me an intermittent front row seat to watching him figure out who he is and what he wants, a fascinating chance for me to find out what makes him tick with no risk involved.

Since it has been four weeks since our last rendezvous, I knew I could count on some new revelations, maybe even a new character or two in his life. When last I'd seen the stubborn one, things were heating up with a woman I'd pegged as high maintenance from the start, but he was still dazzled by how fast she was on wheels, or at least, that's what he told me. For the sake of discussion, she was dubbed "Bachelorette #1."

The latest update on all that personal business was delivered after a warm walk in a light drizzle from Jackson Ward to Dinamo - spent discussing what a creature of habit he thinks I am because, he says, I always choose restaurants within my sphere, which I suppose means walking distance - where we took seats at the bar next to a couple discussing church business and adult children who can't problem solve.

I'm not sure which topic was more depressing.

Our meal was anything but, with his homey and hearty fava bean and maitake mushroom pasta and my seafood salad with enough clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, octopus, onions, lemon and oil to mimic a meal eaten seaside to guarantee we both wound up happy campers. A glass of Orvietto and a sea salt Nutella cookie took me to the finish line.

Meanwhile, the owner shelled fava beans nearby and we talked about his love life and yes, since we met last, onto the scene had come a new contestant whom we dubbed "Bachelorette #2," after briefly considering calling her "No Agenda" but deciding that such a phrase could also apply to Bachelorette #1.

The fact that they both, in fact, have agendas was deeper than he wanted to go tonight. So far, Bachelorette #2's only obvious weakness (and it's worth noting given his personality) is that she's terribly compliant and not especially opinionated.

Some friends would call that boring, but I try to be more diplomatic than that.

Leaving Dinamo shortly before the last customer could, we got as far as Grace and Laurel before the pouring rain was too much to slog through to get back to my place and his car, while Ipanema was a block and a half away. It wasn't a cold or unpleasant rain but it was definitely a directional one and we were both getting soggy.

As always, Ips was an oasis of warmth and soft lighting and with glasses of Spanish white and red in front of us, as good a place as any to continue exploring why people do certain things and what that tells others about them.

Coming in out of the deluge, a guy sat down next to me and began writing in a Moleskin. When I asked the subject, he said he was working on his thesis and you know I had to know. "Disaster Capitalism," he informs me.

My next question is what year was he born, an inquiry that so delights him he throws back his head, smiling.

"That is the best question ever asked!" he claims before explaining how his thesis deals with a post-human worldscape. My questions continue, my friend returns from the head and joins in and the future thinker asks if we're professors at VCU. Negative, but we play them in bars.

When I ask if he has a happy social life around working on such nihilistic theories, he assures me he's an optimist, albeit one in a post-human world. Yet again, I marvel at how differently his generation is wired than mine.

By the time our wine glasses are empty, the rain has stopped, the temperature and humidity have dropped, and we bid farewell to our disaster capitalist.

Could I see him as a friend? Certainly with his polar opposite worldview and comparatively brief body of life experience, I could enjoy many conversations delving into his thoughts and theories, just to hear them. I'd definitely have myriad questions to ask him.

While I'm sitting here typing this, the phone rings despite the relatively late hour. "Are you with a man?' asks FotoBoy - aka he who appreciates my enthusiasm for life - in a hushed voice as if someone might be listening.

Only a really good friend would have the nerve to call at this hour and check on whether I'm alone or not and then ask about lunch plans. But come on, friend, have we met? Do you think I'd answer the phone if I weren't alone?

And yes to lunch, always yes to more conversations. They're the stuff that the best friendships are made of.

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