Last night, I went to dinner with four friends; three local, one distant, but all close in the sense that they contribute significantly to my ability to absorb life a little better on the heels of emotional somersaults. As is so often the case, I was the sole male in a sea (in this case, I guess it was more like a pond) of females. But in smaller groups, I don’t feel so out of place. In fact, I felt connected, as if I had adapted to a mold or the mold had adapted to me or, perhaps, we had collectively sculpted a three-dimensional puzzle of which we all formed a part. Such a sense of connection never lasts long, but in its short life it offers evidence that pieces of a puzzle can form art without sharp edges.
Part of the atmosphere of comfort last night can be attributed to the casual atmosphere of the restaurant. A small place devoid of pretention; a refuge where beer and Mexican food and Mexican music and workers who enjoy their work conspire to create welcoming space. We were among the very few diners there last night, but the evening felt full and inviting. Regardless of the contributions made by the food and the beer and the music and the workers, though, dinner would have been nothing without the pieces of the puzzle.
I chose to create a separate page to house a poem written by a man I’ve never met but who is a long-time friend of a friend. I hope visitors to this post will visit that page. I was moved beyond words by the poet’s ability to translate my scorched words into a clear expression of what I felt. And feel. He wrote his poem in response to my post on what would have been my 41st wedding anniversary.
Next week, two other friends and I will gather around our computers, beer in hand, to discuss matters of global significance: the way beer tastes and how it invades and conquers the land of the mundane. Video-calls have become vitally important ways to maintain connections that, in days past, might have withered or hardened or turned to dust in the absence of face-to-face contact. On my end, I have begun to call these regular video chats J3. or J-Cubed. Clever, that…in that our names all begin with the letter J. I stun myself with my blatant self-congratulatory creativity. 😉 This small gathering, all male, is more “evidence that pieces of a puzzle can form art without sharp edges.” Although some of the edges are a little rough; but only enough to create frictional frivolity. Usually, I hear or see one or both of my friends’ spouses in the background; we’re all friends, albeit I am the older, more geezerly, decrepit one among us all. I am fortunate to have access to relative youth to help me interpret the world in which I live.
Soon, I will have more houseguests, friends of well over forty years! I am looking forward to their visit with the anticipation one might expect in such relationships. Though we don’t communicate with dependable regularity, we talk or text or video-chat enough to keep connected. The fact that we soon will be able to see one another and embrace “like the old days” will be exceptional. We’ve not been physically together in more than a year; I expect embraces will have to be powerful and lasting to overcome an absence that long. One or both of the pair reads my blog posts almost every day, so I expect they will be able to imagine the breadth and depth of my smile on my face as I am writing this. I learned to say “I love you” from them without feeling awkward. Expressing love, even to close friends, has never been easy for me for reasons beyond the scope of this post. But I can say that now to them, thanks entirely to her easy way of saying the words to me. Would that we all, all of us on this planet, would find it easy.
Perhaps as important as anything about our bond is the fact that they, too, are “loners.” Their circle of friends is small, like mine and like ours was when my wife was with me. The knowledge that we are, to one another, extremely important links to extra-familial closeness, must be vital. It must be. I think, perhaps, my circle is expanding ever-so-slightly, though, perhaps in response to the sudden loss of such a vitally important piece of my emotional well-being.
In the days to some, I think my blog posts will be a little less “bouncy” than this one. Although this one seems themed on “friends.” But I might be feeling some stability that will add strength to my rubbery legs. In the interim, more coffee. And time to prepare for the housekeeper’s visit; must straighten and otherwise “clean up” so I will not appear to be the slovenly creature I am.