Sunday, May 24, 2009

down on the river, or, musings on a friendship

I went to see a friend's band last night, down on the river off 26th Street. There were sound system problems, and the show was delayed, and nerves were frazzled. (Not my nerves, but there was a heckler in the crowd, and another band member's irate girlfriend exchanged words with the heckler, and the heckler sent his fiancee over to exchange words with the irate girlfriend, and so on and so forth. And here I sometimes think I've got the market cornered on belligerence.)

I sat back, ate some fries (deliciously spiced with garlic & paprika), helped myself to another beer (the band, unpaid, got free drinks tickets out of the deal).

Later, after the show ended, this friend came over to thank me for showing up. He made a point of telling me that throughout the initial forty minutes of sound system problems (dysfunctional microphones, a stoned venue owner, not enough cords or wires or something beyond my admittedly technologically-deficient understanding), what kept him grounded was looking out over the crowd and seeing me sitting there, calmly smiling up at him.

And I was glad to be that kind of person to him, the face he can look to in a crowd and know it will be smiling encouragingly up at him, waiting patiently for him to do his thing.

But there is a part of me that also felt resentful.

I don't want to only be that kind of person to him and I can't help but feel, in a way, that this is what our friendship is becoming, or what it already is, or maybe what it has always been. And it's not enough, not for a real relationship, a friendship forged of shared experiences and empathy and understanding and trust.

One of the things about this friend of mine is that when you catch his interest, or he needs you in some way, it almost feels magical -- you've got his undivided devotion, and he's amazing, and he's attentive, and his attention is something worth having, worth craving, worth fighting for.

But when his interest wanes, when his attention wanders, or finds something more interesting, more compelling, more exciting than you, you may as well not exist.

I know in a way I'm just being needlessly, pointlessly, bitter. I lost his attention, his undivided devotion, as these things happen, but still, I can't seem to resign myself to this.

Last summer he talked to me about wanting to plan a trip to France this year to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of our friendship, he and I and my brother; twenty years of being friends and more than friends -- family, in our own odd way, as he used to frequently point out -- beginning in a funny little bilingual school in Paris back in 1989 and stretching forward through the years to college, shared dorm rooms, apartments, holidays, losses.

Next week he and his boyfriend are traveling to France with my ex-boyfriend and his fiancee and a few other folks. (I was invited too, in all fairness, but I can't help but feel that anyone with any common sense would know this wasn't really an option, so I am also left with the feeling that the invitation wasn't entirely genuine.)

I don't begrudge him the trip exactly (that's not entirely truthful), but I begrudge him these last five months of not acknowledging my disappointment in this (albeit small) betrayal. (It doesn't seem very small.) And I begrudge him his uncanny ability to turn my hurt and frustration into there being something wrong with me instead of there being something wrong with him, in the way he can be so careless with people he supposedly cares about.

My own pettiness overwhelms me sometimes, and yet there it is.

He seemed almost surprised that I planned to go to his gig last night (as if he almost, but not quite, knows things are not right between us), almost surprised that I actually showed up, though it would never have occurred to me not to go. We are friends (practically family after all) and I know what's important, what's necessary.

And yet I find part of myself not wanting to be his friendly face in the crowd anymore, his rock of Gibraltar, and this makes me sad: with myself, with him, with the state of our twenty-year-old friendship. Anger crept in during those cold months of winter and I don't know quite how to rid myself of it, how to rise above it, how to be okay with being needed without needing, without expecting, much in return.

"don't tell me you need me, its not that easy
yeah we try to forgive, yeah we try"


Kathy P - NY said...

I can not tell you how much I love your blog writings!! I wish I could tell you how to rid yourself of the anger or rise above it or be ok with the relationship - goodness knows if I knew, I would have done it long ago with a relationship or two!! But what I DO want to tell you is there is NOTHING wrong with you - it is definitely HIM - you are GREAT! Some people are just like that and it is hard to keep those friendships going, IMO. So, that's my two cents worth on this topic and I'll stop now - thank you for your writings and your photos. Love to you!

Kathy P - NY said...

PS And yes, I realize you did not ask for my two cents but you know, sometimes I just can't help myself! :D

Emma said...

Thanks so much, Kathy. Lots of love to you & your guys. :)