For my very best friend and most favorite of people. If you’re reading this I love you times infinity plus two million and eighty five.
He’s older, six years. I was seventeen when we met and I thought he was cute and his girlfriend was beautiful. I wished he didn’t have a girlfriend, especially one that was thin and tan and straight toothed and overt. Everybody saw her. I didn’t talk much then, preferring to remain silent and morose to the outside. I went by “Morte” on Myspace. Soon after we met I got myself braces and since I didn’t smile often no one had noticed. He was the first to see them.
Later, after we’d taken a road trip to New York to visit Ikea and his Granny [who dug out an old story he had written called The Prince of Persia, where most of the sentences begin with “Now” and he assures the reader “a thirteen headed, fire-breathing dragon is not very scary if you’re a vegetarian”] and we rolled around on the floor laughing ‘til our muscles were taut and numb—he told me he knew then, in that moment where I’d accepted and loved his child self, that we were going to be close friends.
In becoming close, I realized my own resistance to truly being known by another. How it’s a risk to be vulnerable, and it doesn’t count as vulnerability to simply recount flat, emotionless observations. I found out I didn’t want to be seen. The world was a sharpened spear, poison tip waiting to bore a hole into my bare heart. He assured me I was safe with him and he didn’t judge me when I cried or felt scared, he told me I was brave and he loved me more. This reciprocity, him loving my hurt child self, was the greatest kindest I’d ever received.
Still, simply being told you’re safe and loved doesn’t conjure up instantaneous trust and an integrated view of oneself. I didn’t believe him, not truly. I couldn’t. The critical voices circulating venomous thoughts in my head had tainted my reality, turned me against growth or depth of understanding. I had to lose him, my most desperately clung to and cherished friend; he couldn’t save me like I’d tried to force him to. Love couldn’t make me drop the spear. Gentleness couldn’t staple together my shame-laced identity.
He left me with my doubts and obsessions and my Netflix account. Of course, Netflix didn’t have Friends [our favorite show, the one we’d watch on our couch while I’d pretend he was mine, the couch I helped pick out at Ikea, and later built while he sat nearby, not great with assembly, preferring it’s counterpart, as I’m feeling acutely in the forms of sharpened objects in my eyes and feet, fingertips and muscles] so I steal what I can off the internet. It didn’t work to draw out the poison, neither did tears or vomit or God.
The span of our relationship has been riddled with love, acceptance, complication, pain, and a deepening relationship with him and myself that before I experienced, I could not have possibly understood. I can think of a thousand clichés whose abrasive repetition would not ring loudly enough the amount I appreciate him being a part of my life. Years later I can say I’m grateful for the loss, it forced me to recognize I needed to either help myself out of my pit of shame, or die alone and in the dark. Without experiencing love, and later loss, I would have steeped in my shame for the rest of my life.
A week ago I finished knitting him a hat. He chose the pattern—a complicated cable knit photographed on a girl—and bright coral yarn, by the end it was remarkably feminine and accidentally gigantic. It looked like what a cartoon version of him would wear in the Sugar Rush arcade game from Wreck it Ralph. I laughed when he put it on, the absurdity of this brawny, tattooed musician wearing a neon coral hat that was beginning to grow even more in size. He looked in the mirror and his eyes flashed dread, then sweetly sat back down next to me commenting how nice the pattern turned out, hesitating before saying “I’m just not sure where I could wear it. Maybe snowboarding?” The poor guy thought he was going to have to wear it. This coral yarn squid that was nearly suffocating him by its expansion. I stopped laughing long enough to take his hand and muster up a serious voice, “This hat is friggin’ ridiculous! I don’t expect you to ever wear it. In fact, please don’t. It’s awful.”
And so is the ebb and flow of our relationship, from revelation and discovery to anger and resentment and pain to love and acceptance and understanding. I’m twenty-five now and I’m retroactively grateful for every moment. The further out of my pit I got, the lower his pedestal became. Today we’re standing [or rolling around laughing] on level ground. He’s a challenging person to be in a relationship with, in that he’s aware of my inconsistencies, but being known by him has been the single most growth-encouragement I’ve experienced. In his words, “I’ve had to write off getting close to a thousand different people because of an ignored and ever widening gap, and it hurts.. but I ended up finding you, and your friendship is way more valuable to me than those thousand people, so it was worth it.”