My friend L called me a few days ago. She is one of my very best friends– and of the people I have known a long time and am still very close to, other than my sister, I think she is my oldest friend. She is a completely central person in my life, both because of our friendship now and because of our history. We live on opposite coasts.
Cell phones have made our lives and our connection to each other better and worse. We can talk once in awhile when I am on my way home from work or she is driving to take her daughters to their many activities. On the other hand our conversations are full of bad connections, technically speaking. Poor reception, weird delays in the pace of the conversation, as well as wrong turns as a result of being distracted by the phone and then rushing off suddenly to actually pay attention to what we are supposed to be doing or where we are going. It’s one way to keep up but it sure isn’t the same as sitting down over coffee or tea or on someone’s bed or sofa late at night for a nice long talk like we used to do, both in person and by phone.
L and I met when we were 18– I think on our second day at the small liberal arts college in the midwest where we both started school and then both dropped out. I dropped out before the end of the semester which was the source of great and grave anger and sadness between my father and me. I am completely serious when I say that I don’t know if he ever really got over it. My friendship with L is the only thing I left that school with. I feel more sympathetic now to the feelings he had about the lost tuition– I didn’t even finish the semester or get the credits for his hard-earned money.
On the other hand, I wish that before he died I could have helped him to understand the immeasurable value of my lifelong friendship with L and now her whole family– her mother and father (now gone), L’s sister, L’s two daughters and her partner. If I could now repay my father for the cost of that semester, I would do so and consider it a tremendous bargain because of the friendship.
What I am remembering now is that in our late teens and early twenties, L and I visited each other a lot. I did less of the travelling , but she would come to visit me for a summer at a time for 4 weeks or 8 weeks sometimes. She was much more adventuresome than I. Once she took a cross country bicycle trip with a plan to finish in the Madison, Wisconsin where I had gone back to school and she was coming to stay for the summer. She called from pay phones along the way. And then one day she called me, told me what street corner she was on and asked directions to my house. She was an LPN and could almost always get work within a week of starting to look, so she could visit and and work. I would go to California to see her too, but never for a month. Either way our days often included one of us going off to work, while the other hung out waiting for the work day to end and our visit and talks and adventures to resume.
Why I am writing this now is that looking back, she was my very first writing/blogging partner. We both kept long, detailed, involved journals. Mine went on and on and on writing-wise. Hers did too, and were full of interesting things pasted in as well. Train tickets, ticket stubs, photo booth photos. I don’t remember when exactly, but there came a time in our friendship– when we developed a tradition. When we saw each other, one of the things we would do early on in our visit and completely by agreement was that one would spend several hours reading the other’s journal. And then we would talk about it later– like the comments part of the blog, only more expansive.
After we started doing this, our journals, our experiments with writing and our own thoughts and feelings about so many things, were no longer only our own– they were soon-to-be-published pieces, with a very, very small and particular audience in mind. I like to think of that time as I do this work– and I like the immediacy of the blog– and I like to think of you who I know and you who I don’t out there– reading, thinking like L and I did back then.