My 26th birthday was last week. I like to travel for my birthday and I was planning a late December/early January trip to Big Bend. Sickness and work interfered, and I was super bummed about my looming (non hiking) birthday. Ric kept asking me what I wanted to do, a fair question since my tastes can be rather fickle. A quiet dinner might ordinarily be exactly what I want, or it could be completely the wrong thing. Wishing I was in Big Bend, my answers were noncommittal at best. The only consistency was, “I wanna see Ashley on my birthday.”
For those of you who know me, this is huge. I haven’t had a solid friend in 10 or 12 years. The reasons don’t matter but the range includes my tendency toward introversion, thinking a lot of people are really stupid (sorry), feeling that girls my age have their core friends already, and my lack of childhood friends – a result of 9 or 10 huge relocations growing up. Also most of my causal friends over the years have been male, and getting over When Harry Met Sally is always dicey. Or impossible. I’ve really been trying for a few years now, but my travel schedule, unusual line of work, and/or boyfriend always seem to interfere. He’s wonderful, but I will pick his company over almost anyone else – me limiting me, not him limiting me.
Something like 3 years ago I met Ashley. On the internet. And found her to be annoying at best. Loud talking. Rude. Antagonistic. Drama. She’s so going to kill me when she reads this. Nothing she did for an entire year on the internet made me think otherwise. And then I met her in person. She was pretty and nice and most surprisingly shy. I didn’t talk to her much then, but we kept bumping into each other in different cities. I’ve spent more time with Ashley in different cities while we’re on separate trips than with anyone in a hundred mile radius of my residence. We’d squeeze a few hours out of our very busy schedules (cuz thats how we role…all business) and go have dinner or a beer. No wildness. And I slowly learned that she is smart, incredibly compassionate, driven, and that she needed the same things I did and that she has the same strange quirks I do.
Ashley might be the only girl in the world who is available and willing to be my friend, but being with her is never a last resort. Finally having a friend I feel like a little piece of my heart is getting used for the first time. And unlike a lover, she can’t break it so I don’t have to let her in slowly or measure my happiness with equal parts caution. There’s no bullshit with a friend. I can talk to her five times a day, or five weeks can pass and though I’ll have missed her, no one is feeling neglected or like the status of the relationship is in question. I hope this isn’t news to anyone reading this, but be patient with me – its like swimming for the first time.
Ashley told me no when I asked her to come to Texas for my birthday. And called me a bitch. She said I should have asked her a week earlier before she had work planned elsewhere. But as predicted her job canceled and we made ticket changing/buying magic and got her to Dallas, where I neglected to tell her it had been snowing. She called me a bitch again. She stayed with me for four days with no work booked, racking up a $200 parking bill at La Guardia. And we were damn happy the entire time.
She’s gone now and I miss my giggle buddy. I heard a radio interview several months ago about a guy who runs a vineyard in some tiny village outside of Tuscany. A small road running past family farms as it winds through a valley and up hill where it proudly becomes main street for a hundred yards or so and then takes gravity humbly back down the hill. He was a foreign national, from Michigan or something like that. In his interview he described exactly what I want. He knows everyone in his village. Beyond simply knowing each other, the villagers lives are all interconnected. The neighbor down the road has more tomatoes come in than she can use. So she brings some over, and when her step breaks the carpenter fixes it. Back to bartering almost. Which is intriguing in itself, but a different topic. Anyone might be sitting at this guy’s dinner table on any given evening. And he would know these people well and feel familiar with them. He legitimately cared for his neighbors. Things are done with purpose, for joy, by hand. Work, existense, joie de vivre are all the same thing. This is what I want. I want my family – my village – all around me. Gardens and flowers, sure. Frozen pizza, tears, sunsets, laughing until you can’t breathe, tragedy, hope, cigarettes, speeding tickets, naked pictures.
I want Ashley in my village.