• The Crossing Paths Issue

    Letter from the Editors: Keep Your Friends Closer

    The Crossing Paths Issue
    Letter cover web


    Keep Your Friends Closer

    With friends you've known for a long time, you have less and less in common. As time goes by, your friendship is built of memories and knowing each other more than it is based on shared interests. New friends are often much more like you, but they don't know you half as well. (At that show when I yelled: “I know you!” you laughed: “Barely!”) 

    Friendship is always this tension between newness and oldness, and because shared interests are so fleeting, navigating new relationships can be scary. But sometimes you’ve got to risk disappointment and a heartbreak to let good things into your life. Whoever is out here saying “I got here all on my own” is fooling themselves. Vulnerable people have been materially supporting one another always. The text message that kept you alive that night, the friend who let you stay on their couch, the woman who affirmed you at all the right moments – so many people influence the trajectory of our lives in ways we don’t even account for.

    “I’m so tired, I’m so sick and tired 
    and I’m feeling very sick and ill today
    But I’m still fond of you.”

    Despite her being a “nice white woman”, I can’t recall my mother ever calling the police. She was undocumented and built her own safety network, which would have her back in the case of an emergency. Like, when I was three, a bed-frame fell on my head and split open my scalp. Our neighbor charged the emergency room visit on her credit card because we didn’t have insurance.

    In elementary school, my teacher kept a notecard of people who were allowed to pick me up at the end of the day. My dad wasn’t on it (he wasn’t there when I was born either); the queer couple who lived across the hall from my mom and me in our six floor walk-up were, however. My mom carried a beeper (and a rape whistle) so the school could contact her if something happened. 

    I met my oldest friend in 1994 when I was in preschool. After that, I didn’t see her until I was eleven, when our parents ran into one another at a tour of a middle school. They yelled each other’s names and embraced. We peaked over our parents shoulders, squinting at our adolescent bodies unfamiliarly.

    Over the past few years, we’ve both had shitty experiences with the medical system, depression, and chronic pain. We go through periods where we see each other every day, and then not at all for months. Recently, I’ve hit her up every time I’m near her apartment to see if she’s around. Looking through our correspondence on my phone I see fifteen odd texts from me to her with no responses. 

    Today she sent me an email with the subject line “Done” saying she just finished her final colloquium for her BA, a degree that will have taken her six years to finish. (It’s fine, it’s the national average or something.) 

    The person who has hurt me the most in my adult life is the person who I trust with my most fragile thoughts. It’s funny how the “frenemy” is the most intense form of intimacy – the heavy responsibility of holding somebody else’s secrets giving you the power to make one another feel so big and also so fucking small. 

    I wish I had the courage and stamina to correspond with an incarcerated pen pal but can’t even maintain basic correspondence with my ex who lives on the other side of the country. I have nightmares about them freezing to death in their van on the side of the road. The image sits raw in my heart as a reminder that if you ignore people’s calls enough, they will stop calling. That if you hurt people enough you might lose the privilege of being alerted when their lives are falling apart. 

    “Was it worth it?
    Would you do it again?
    Aren't you tired? Of always making amends?
    I know you hate me now
    I bet you hate me now.”

    For the first time in years I fall asleep with my phone off. I wake up to several messages from a couple of friends having panic attacks in the middle of the night, like “Call me I need a hug.” I’m realizing more and more that keeping my phone on and picking up every single time might be the most radical thing I can do these days. You just never know why somebody might be calling you. I repeat “friends can save your life if you let them” to myself as a mantra, not entirely sure if it is a rallying cry or a cry for help.

    This is The Crossing Paths Issue where we operate from the assumption that the person you meet at the bar will change the course of your life forever, that the relationship you fucked up was most definitely “the one,” that the bullet she jumped in front of for you actually made all the difference, that your best friend from middle school is Instagram famous now, and that we’ll all just end up raising our kids together.

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