I Believe in Friendship
I’ve always made friends easily. Just having a difficult name has been the opener to many conversations leading to promises of future dates, coffee, and the exchange of numbers. My name is hard to pronounce, hard to spell, hard to access and unfamiliar. It’s exotic sound and my obviously American voice, demeanor and appearance raise questions in most would be strangers. “where does it come from?” “ Did your parents give you the name?” “ What does it mean?”
“Ianthe”, I say, “It’s ancient Greek, my parents found it in a Percy Shelley Poem, it means the Goddess of feminine virtues and the violet flower”.
Thus an acquaintance is made and an impression that lays the foundation of friendship. However, lately I’ve noticed how lonely I feel. I can name at least thirty friends right now. I have their phone numbers in my cell, but are they really friends? When pressed I have to say no. They’re really acquaintances. Nice, friendly, sometimes fun, sometimes stimulating, sometimes trustworthy, sometimes able to pronounce my name, sometimes available, sometimes helpful, sometimes amusing acquaintances. So who are my friends? There are categories I’ve come up with in answer to my own question. Like so many ripples emanating from a stone tossed into a glassy pool, I am the stone and the furthest circle my many acquaintances with each circle getting closer in reliability and proximity as it moves to its origin:
People I like, but don’t remember their names.
People I see every day, but don’t have their number.
People I like, but never invite over.
People I’ve been in school or classes with
People who’s numbers are in my book, (the one with missing pages I rarely refer to).
People who’s numbers are in my cell phone.
People who’s numbers I know by heart.
People who invite me over.
people I see in their home or mine at least once a month.
people who call for advice.
people I can call for advice.
my real friends.
My real friends, those precious few, who’s numbers I know but it doesn’t matter because we feel when we need each other. Because they know what I need and I know what they need. Because we laugh and cry with each other, hug, pee with the door open, borrow each other’s clothes, make up and perfume, literally walk in each other’s shoes, (if we wear the same size), and buy matching ones if we don’t. Get mad at each other and know we’ll be there when the dust clears. To be seen and to see. So that circle, the one closest to the stone, has at any given time three or four real friends. In those times of loneliness I need only look in front of my face to see their reflective eyes and knowing smiles. I need only listen closely to hear my name pronounced correctly and confidently. The challenge is to not get distracted by the rows and rows of ripples carrying my eyes to some solitary horizon. “Hello, my name is Ianthe.”
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