Monday, February 16, 2015

Life, love and Excel

My friend Eric is one of those friends. You know the ones; they've been in your orbit for so long, you barely recall what life was like in the days before them. I was in my early 20s when we began the friendship that was instantly filled with vulnerable honesty.

The year was 1991. I looked something like this blurry screen grab from a VHS tape of a play I was in at Aurora University.
Me as Big Jane in "Three Postcards."

It was after a performance of that show, I believe, that I met Eric for the first time. We became fast friends, and we shared an undeniable chemistry. Friendship blossomed into romance, and the romance flamed out as quickly as it started. We lost touch, embarked on separate lives, and became people much more similar to who we are today.

And then, years later, Facebook brought us back to one another. In our time apart, he'd gotten married and had a son. I'd gotten married and had a divorce. But we had a shared arsenal of memories to fuel us, and one of our greatest memories were of the unbeatable combination of food and conversation. So it seemed only natural that we would return to that, and on Thanksgiving Eve in 2008, we sat together for the first time in 17 years. We shared a meal, we shared stories, we shared laughter.

From that night, we were once again in sync. Our brief togetherness of the early 90s became a solid kevlar friendship. Sure, it could be damaged; we've had our ups and downs, but only because we're still the painfully honest and vulnerable people we were back in 1991. When feelings get hurt, we hash it out. (Or rather, when my feelings get hurt, I spill my guts and then ignore him for a period of time. Because I am apparently only as mature as I was in 1991 ... but I digress.)

As we re-built our friendship and we began blending lives again, he introduced me to the concept of undefinable love. As he described it, we were a spreadsheet. Lots of columns; lots of ways we mattered to one another. Sure, one of those old columns was romance, but we added more over time. I once babysat his son; new column! His wife and I took a road trip together; new column! I spilled my heartbreak all over his latte; new column!

In my lifetime, I have known only two fellas who know me so well and love me so thoroughly. So here I am, with another Valentine's Day in my rearview mirror, and I am entirely unable to consider love without considering the fella who requires Excel to describe the way we love.

In every column, across time and geography, through stories and over meals, with hiccup-inducing laughter and a mojito or two, we have loved. It's Eric who proclaimed love as my superpower, and Eric who is often left to pick up the pieces when I fall apart. To have a friend like that, who once upon a time made my toes curl and even before that was my greatest fan and an even better friend. Yeah ... that, my friends, is to understand that the term "more than friends" has nothing to do with coupling, and everything to do with transcending the one-dimensional and diving into something that defies description.

There are moments in life when we don't know how we fit into the lives of others. The thing is, you don't always have to know. I worry sometimes that I'm not good enough to deserve the love of my amazing friends. But it isn't about deserving; it's about loving, however you're able, in whatever column you're able, at any given time. Pal, therapist, bartender, confidant, partner-in-crime, accompanist, sponge shoulder (from all the crying, natch), style consultant, reality checker, dance partner, the whole nine - if you're really, really lucky, you have a friend or two who can fit into any and all of those columns.

Life is complex. People are complex. But love? Love is really pretty simple. You just do it.

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