Over the course of this peripatetic existence there have been more than two dozen occasions when people have declared their undying (and hopeless) love for me; six proposals of marriage; four people I’ve liked enough to split the rent; two I’ve married; one person sufficiently persistent to know longer than a year or two. Throughout all of these machinations and maneuvers I have remained puzzled by the emotions, drama, betrayals, reversals. I’ve had more than my statistical share of romance, and neither enjoyed nor believed in the experience. This is what I think of romantic love: shrug. Whatever.
I reckon that what most people call love is just infatuation, a fleeting and fundamentally biological feeling. I don’t do feelings. They’re not reliable, logical, or trustworthy. The main proof of this is the fact that when I reject advances or break up with people they never remain friends. Perhaps this is normal: I wouldn’t know.
It is however a cheat. If I like someone, it is forever – regardless of whether they live up to my expectations or give me exactly what I want. When people say they love me, I have always asked “why?” or some variation of “uh-huh, but for how long?” – invariably valid questions, if not exactly endearing.
It is not surprising that I cannot even remember the faces of the people who claimed to love me when they merely wanted me to love them. First husband, what was his name again? I cannot recall, and I am not exaggerating. My imperative truthfulness is a scourge, and ordinary humans prefer marriages based on mutual admiration. In my life friendship has always been more important than romantic love, friendship is based on realistic expectations, and my only lasting romantic relationship has been with my best friend, the person who has been there year after year, through every adventure, no matter how strange or alarming. Lots of people have claimed to love me. But there is only one person around when I need a ride to the hospital, who also wanted to help raise my kids, who can be relied on to say yes when the rest of the world says no.
Friendship is fundamental, rewarding, heartbreaking, real. My friends are the people who show up when I need them and stay away when I am too ragged to talk. They’re the people who laugh at my grotesque stories, understand my flaws and hesitations, and show their own. They’re the people who wander away, but always come back.
There are thousands of people I call friend, and only a handful of people I talk to with any consistency. I have too many responsibilities, too little time, and an urgent need to see more of this world before I depart.
The last few months have been difficult, a fact that I would never have admitted as the events unfurled. I’ve hidden myself away, closing up around the pain and confusion, saying I’m fine, it will all be fine. But spring is arriving and it is time to get back to work.
I am humbled by the extraordinary opportunities I’ve had, and by the people I met along the way. I don’t say it enough, and I want to make this clear: I love my friends, and thank them with all sincerity. Not for what they’ve done, but instead, for who they are.