I was watching "Into the Woods" on Broadway a few weeks ago, when I was visiting New York and my grandparents, and the big attraction was supposed to be Vanessa Williams as the Witch. And as I sat in the expensive seats practically-first-row seats with my grandparents, I thought about Rachel Halko, who I haven't thought of in a very long time. Sixteen-year-old Rachel standing in Kate's living room with a perfect expressive face and a look in her eyes that said she was barely holding back a huge smile because it would ruin the effect, singing as the Witch about her garden of greens and the curses she'd cast. Sitting there in the dark, although I told my grandparents that this version was better than anything I'd ever seen in order to soothe their disappointment at the fact that the show they picked was one I'd seen before, I thought to myself that I liked Rachel's version ten times better than Vanessa Williams'.
The first time I saw "Into the Woods," I was sitting in my basement with a group of people all around me, Josh speaking all the lines and singing the lyrics like he did with all of his favorite movies and shows until we laughingly made him shut up. In the room with us was almost this tangible feeling of love and affection. It was a long time ago, 5 years this winter, and these were the first friends I'd ever loved. We were close and intense; we lived hours away from eachother, but jumped through all sorts of hoops to get together over and over and over again. We hugged and laughed and had a thousand inside jokes and spent all the time together we possibly could. Rachel and Josh, Drew, Meredith, Shawn, Mark, Danielle, Kate, Emma they were the vibrant center of my life.
I haven't seen most of them in a very long time. For no particular reason, really. We didn't fight or anything. We didn't decide that we didn't like eachother. It just took a lot of effort to get together, and somehow there was more and more time between each gathering until suddenly we just didn't see or talk to eachother much anymore. Meredith and I will always be friends no matter how often we talk, but for pretty much everyone else, there's just a string of infrequent IM conversations catching up on a year or two at once if that, inevitably ending with a "We should keep in touch more" that doesn't get followed up as they drift out of mind again.
It's the kind of thing that makes you wonder about what friendships are made of, how to build them, when they'll last. I loved those friends very genuinely, in a way that I rarely feel towards friends today. Was it just me (us all?) being young and lonely and excited and affectionate? Is it a lesson that no matter how good the friendship, unless you work to hold onto it it can fade away? What makes a friendship good? What makes a friendship the kind where you feel a hole whenever your friend's not in your life, or what makes it the kind where you suddenly look around and notice they've been gone for a while now? I want to take something from the rich experience of it all to fold into my friendships now, but I'm not sure what to learn.
I wonder about what my current friendships mean, where they're going. I'm very fond of my friends. I've been noticing that over the last month since we've been back at school, I'll suddenly look at one of them at a totally random moment-- in class, at dinner, watching something on TV together-- and smile as a wave of affection comes over me. I'll be tempted to reach over and give them a hug and whisper, "Hey, do you know I love you?" But it's always a completely inappropriate time to do that, so of course I don't. And even if it was, it's not like I say and do things like that to most of these friends anyway. We're not so demonstrative, and we don't say that we love eachother, and honestly, I'm not sure that love is the right word to use most of the time, since I take the word very seriously. But at these moments, I do feel it, and instead of saying, "Right now, there's nothing in the world that would make me happier than seeing you happy, and I'm never going to let anyone hurt you," I keep my mouth shut and they never get a glimpse of it.
Not that everything is perfectly hunky-dory. Another thing I'm coming to terms with this fall is dealing with when my friends are being irritating or annoying. I've always to some extent tried to deny that any of my friends have ever seriously annoyed me. It's felt disloyal, making an admission that I must not really like them, since it's a sort of agreement with people who use this behavior as a reason to dislike them. And I worry that I can be annoying, too, but if I can say, "You're my friend, therefore you're not annoying," then they must never be bothered by me, either, right? So I grit my teeth and insist that every annoying thing any of my friends does must be funny and endearing.
But you know what? That's pretty stupid. (I'll bet you did know that.) I don't have to like every facet of my friends' personalities. No one's perfect. Everyone has flaws and eccentricities and characteristics that please some more than others. My friends have a right to be themselves, and I have a right not to like the way they act sometimes, and that's fine for all of us and doesn't mean we can't be friends and that I can't recognize all the good things I love in them, too. I need to remember that, and let myself be annoyed and then have it behind me, instead of pretending it doesn't bother me and then resenting it because of my failure to convince myself it was amusing.
rather odd right now, though. I'm putting less weight on friendships now
than at any other point in my life so far, so it leads to a sort of detached
feeling in general, where I'm curious about how things will turn out and
what paths friendships will take, but not overly concerned. I'm not sure
what I think about this way of looking at-and feeling about-my friends.
15 October, 2002
Intellectual Property Rights denounced by Britt Gordon-McKeon, 2002