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Is This Friendship?
thoughts on a non-romantic break up
Sometimes you pull a peach from the crisper drawer in your fridge, all dappled with blush and coral. It looks ready, it’s been waiting, okay it’s been stuck in that drawer for a week now.
No more stalling. Rotate the soft fuzzy skin, one quick look before you bite—but wait—a splotch of mold reveals itself, all sunken graygreen. This peach would turn your stomach if you dared to eat it. But when did things take a turn? Was it always bruised, destined for the compost as a best case scenario? As it’s stone fruit season, I’m timing out my peaches, plums, the occasional nectarine. I dote over the grocery store fruits—trying not to clutch them as I select from the pile, gingerly transporting them home. You want your peach to ripen, but you never know what will go soft, too soft, then spoil.
It’s the same with people. You give them time to show their true nature. A relationship that grows stale can sometimes be revived, other times prodding just leaves a bigger hole than ever before. Suddenly water fills in the gaps, a moat forms where a field once stood. Separation firms up, becomes the norm. But how? This distance couldn’t have happened overnight, connection takes time to fizzle out.
We build strata of expectation around another person. We call this friendship. It happens when you’re not looking: when sharing cups of wine overflowing, the splashes nurture each other’s soil. Routine revelry anoints you as co-conspirators and we start to see destiny at play. We want to believe our tasks are unified—that our hands might overlap in motion and be indistinguishable. We want to plant our seeds in the same cadence. We hope to churn in the same direction, flipping earth to welcome air. We call this love: to find yourself in someone else. To know one another is to see ourselves not as solo specks drifting in a void, but part of a constellation.
This is a magical phase in any relationship. Excitement overrides any misgivings. When you get to know someone new, it’s like learning the terrain of an unknown planet. If you’re welcomed into their specific atmosphere, you must learn to breathe their air. You must walk with their level of gravity slung across your chest. If you commit to the bit, they become part of you. We call this love: assuming the position of friendship. And why not? It’s tough out there, we search for shelter. It’s all so human.
Human stuff feels novel, we deal a lot with the non-human. As the world refracts through the fly-eyed lens of social media, we’ve grown accustomed to digesting every fibrous angle. The edges are harder, artificially defined by the flattened internet waves. It’s impossible to comprehend. Our brains were not designed for all of this. In many ways, we are just barely coping with the daily avalanche of opinion behind the square door of every app.
There, you run into messages designed to do one of two things:
make you feel crazy
make you feel like the only sane one
What can we do? Return to what is known. Reach our arms into the shared swatch of earth, feeling for the touch of People Like Us. I know that you know How Things Should Be. I hold your hand and don’t know it from my own. Similarity is safe. Once again, we call this love.
There is a minor but fundamental flaw in this concept. We are not the same. That’s not inherently a bad thing—but it’s a truth that needs to be remembered. I say this because we tend to look at a person, and if we like them, we hunt for similarities. Whatever reflective points we find, we magnify. This is called sharing, this is called friendship. But if we scoop up too much sameness, it eclipses our contrasting pixels: the all important shades that form an entire being.
We can mirror back and forth for quite some time. But in the process, you miss the depth of a person. You forget exactly how to see the differences. It’s not really love if you can’t love the contrast, the discomfort, the things you can’t understand. Their hands are not your hands. They hail from an entirely different world—they breathe air that would weigh down your lungs if you gulped in too much. For them, this is normal, their cells function just fine. But it informs their movements, internal and external. Some are filled with reactive elements, lithium, potassium, sodium. Others have copper, gold, mercury: non reactive by nature.
If the confused reflections grow too obvious, we paper over them with borrowed language. Girl Dinner, Boomer, Fem-cell, Goblin Mode, Core Core. Until we can talk without really saying anything at all. You can cling to these pop-terms and float through a lot of blank spaces in a text thread, but how much time can you really dedicate to Urban Dictionary?
It takes a lot to hold more than just an idea of a person. When a friend deviates from your reflection—as they most certainly will—cracks form quickly, lightning strikes, illuminating an unknown plain.
So then what?
A friend becomes another sad case filed into the category of People Who Are Wrong. Too bad, you thought you knew them.
Or you could choose to embrace the expanse—or at the very least see it. I call this friendship. We are not the same. We never were. The contrast in these points is not a dark spot, molding, rancid. Without shadows, you’re just getting a flat portrayal. Pencil shades an image to convey a sense of depth.
You will come to understand there will be things you will never understand. You will show up anyway, hold each other, look at the differences in your palm wrinkles and nail shape. I call this love.
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