I don’t have many friends where I live. I have lived here for nine years now and I keep thinking it will change but it has not. I will have you know that I don’t generally have trouble making friends. I was really rather popular in three zip codes as an adult: 11215, 90026, and 90042. I crushed it in each of those. I was beating friends off with a stick.
But in 95959, where I have been for the last nine years, I am chopped liver.
I am of course exaggerating. Though when people ask me how I like living here, I say, “It’s fine, but I have no friends.” Yes, I have my boyfriend and I have his two good friends and they are both very entertaining but not only are they actual dudes, they are like pretty seriously dudes. To demonstrate the manner in which they are dudes, I wrote a song about them and their favorite video game:
If there’s one thing you know about a man
It’s that a man will play Rainbow Six
If there’s anything else you want to know about a man
It’s that a man will play Rainbow Six
You can beg, you can borrow, even steal from him
And he’ll keep playing Rainbow Six
‘Cause a man is a man and you gotta understand
He’s a man who loves Rainbow Six.
I also have the guy that I work with but I mean, we can’t go out and just talk for three hours after sitting next to each other all day. Plus at this point we are like siblings. I know sometimes when he is listening to me he is thinking, “Yes, I know, shut up.”
I do have two friends, but one of them had a baby and as soon as it was big enough for her to start being my friend again she got pregnant a second time. I am not mad at her. I don’t expect people to stop reproducing because I need them to be friends with me. (Though wouldn’t that be nice!) I have another friend, but she also has a kid. I have one other friend but she is very very young and sometimes I don’t want to burden her with the truth about what it’s like to not be young anymore. She will find out soon enough.
I did have another friend but one night she screamed at me, literally screamed at me, and I just stood there thinking, yeah, no. And then she moved.
My boyfriend was like, “WHY WERE YOU EVEN FRIENDS WITH THAT PERSON WHO WE BOTH KNEW WOULD ONE DAY SCREAM AT YOU,” and I can actually answer this. I was friends with her for the reason I am friends with anyone which is that when I am around them I am not thinking and I can tell they are not thinking either. I don’t mean “because we are both doing shots.” I am just talking about ease. Like the words are coming and the ideas are being formed but no one is trying too hard.
The image I get in my head when I think about what it’s like to be with such a friend is a pool vacuum. Is this idiocy? If you have never seen a pool vacuum in action, boy, do you have a treat coming. They glide along the bottom of a pool, and they suck up stuff, and they just seem to know where to go. They are like aqueous Roombas, but with more personal agency, I think. Like Roombas just cover the whole room, in order, but pool vacuums go where the action/dirt is. If this is wrong, I don’t care, that’s how I see pool vacuums and I’d like to keep it that way.
When I am with a friend that is the kind of friend I want, my mind, and presumably their mind, moves like a pool vacuum. It darts to and fro. It goes where it is needed. But it is guided by purpose, and by a force that is not just your own exhausted will. It is guided by—I don’t know! Shared charisma! Curiosity! Mutual empathy. I am making all that up. What I really want to say is just “I want a friend who makes my mind feel like a pool vacuum.”
I remember the night I met my best friend, in November 2001, at Akbar. “We’re going to be best friends,” I said. “Forever and ever!”
“Isn’t that a little creepy?” she said, but she was laughing. I could tell from the look in her eyes she was besotted with me.
“It would be if I were wrong,” I said. “But I’m not.”
Tonight I went out with a new potential friend and had a pool vacuum experience. I should preface this by saying I got her number from a friend to whom I said excitedly, “Maybe she can be my friend.” He was like, “She is super great but you might think she is very sincere,” and I said, “I can be extremely sincere,” and he looked skeptical but he connected us nonetheless.
She was sincere, but in a way that wasn’t about having anything to prove. She was not trying to hide anything and I felt welcome to do the same. She told me right away that she had married someone wrong for her and didn’t try to make herself sound cool. I had a similar story. We traded frustrating anecdotes about being underpaid (we’re both writers) and triumphant ones about getting people to fucking give us our fucking money. We agreed that the #MeToo thing had moments of disaster in it but that this was probably all inevitable, what was the whole thing going to be? A picnic? She is five years younger than me, and I told her not to bother dyeing her hair when the time came, and how, in her late 40s, she would start to seriously lose her grasp on reality and feel sometimes like she was floating in space but she shouldn’t worry about it because as awful as it was, some of it was funny enough to make it all worth it. When we started talking, she had her left hand at her left ear, a sort of safety blanket gesture, I think, but after twenty minutes or so, I noticed that she had let her hand rest in her lap.
In her presence, I had that feeling of weightlessness, of simultaneous excitement and relaxation. I hoped that when she was talking to me, she could feel a pure current of understanding coming from me. I like to think that if that current of understanding had a color it would be the same soothing honey tone as the Hibiki Japanese Harmony Suntory whiskey I was drinking. I would like to think that my feeling that perhaps she might actually be my real friend was not because I was drinking Japanese whiskey but because it was true.
She was drinking the house white. She said that most of her good friends lived somewhere else. I said same. She said her wine wasn’t very good. I had to agree. It just had the tangy, boring flavor that makes you think “white wine.” Like diner coffee reminds you of coffee. I asked her if she was going to drink it anyway. She said of course she would, and I said I would not have. She did not seem to think this made me an asshole. I offered her a taste of my whiskey. “I never drink straight spirits,” she said, and lifted the nice, heavy glass, with its one fancy ice cube, to her lips. “I guess I can see why people like that,” she said. I told her she could get one next time which should be next week, why wait? She agreed.
Afterward, outside, in the very bright streetlights, we expressed breathless, lovers-like delight at having met. I will have the Hibiki Japanese Harmony when we come back to this place. It is not cheap, but it embodies the smooth effortlessness of talking to someone who understands, and is understood. Who would not pay dearly for that?