We're Just Friends. No, Really
I was sitting at my friend Andrew's dining table in the mid afternoon. I had stopped by to pick up a book I needed for a writing project and decided to stay and work with him a while. It was quiet and peaceful and he was bent intently over his work. I slipped slowly into the silence and wiggled my way into its corners. After a short spell I looked up at him from across our computer screens and said, "Tell me there's nothing wrong with me." I cupped one side of my face in my hand, smudging vulnerability like a shoddy makeup job.
"What do you mean?" he asked cautiously but tenderly.
"I mean, with Sam, not wanting … Tell me … "
He interrupted softly, " … that you're not inadequate?"
I nodded and looked down at the keyboard where I knew the slow but open tears would soon land.
He spoke slowly. "I think you are beautiful. And I think you love people fiercely. That is an amazing gift." I was both surprised and grateful that he hadn't repeated his usual praise about my intellectual and creative gifts. Somehow he heard me speaking from that shier crevice of my heart, the one easily layered with "shoulds" and "ought tos," the one whose fragile fractures are habitually hidden.
"I. Think. You. Are. Beautiful," he repeated.
I nodded rapidly, still looking away as the tears came. "I know, I know," I whispered. "I know." I could feel his caramel colored eyes trying to stare these truths into my heart. I could feel how quickly I wanted to bypass his words because some part of me still struggled to hear it.
We sat quietly across the table from one another. I wept freely into the small cradle of comfort his words had carved for me. I knew he believed what he had told me and somehow I felt that seeping back into me as I cried. I felt alone and held all at once. Without moving from his side of the table, without touching me, without breaching the space of sorrow that could only rightfully be mine at that moment, I felt held and re-membered by his friendship in a matter of moments.
Andrew and I have been good friends for the past year. I am still growing into this sliver of space our friendship provides. We met when we were both single and immediately hit it off. We enjoy one another's company intellectually and socially, and we both find the other physically attractive. Yet there was no assumption that our new and enriching acquaintance would lead to a romantic relationship. We simply spent several months getting to know one another through conversation and sharing activities together and with groups of mutual friends. Yes, we have since had some conversations around boundaries and expectations. We have had to, because neither of us has been well formed by our culture or Christian traditions to imagine healthy platonic relationship between two single people as good enough.