I am writing to you from rural Pennsylvania where the grass is green
and the cell phone service and DSL lines are, well, virtually nonexistent.
I flew to Cleveland last night with Potential for a visit with Old Friend
#1 and Old Friend #2, two of her closest friends with whom she lived
in a collective for ten years. Old Friend #1’s mother died last
spring and Potential is helping them to plan a large memorial service
in the country that will take place at the end of July. Today, we drove
to Pennsylvania to stay in the country at the house where Old Friend
#1’s mother used to live.
I am trying to stay relaxed and open but it is challenging. Potential
assured me that they would be very welcoming and easy to be with but
I am having mixed feelings about that. When they picked us up at the
airport, they gave me a perfunctory hello and then launched in to all
sorts of stories and questions for Potential. I had been anticipating
that and looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about Potential
and her close friends. But I felt invisible in the car ride that took
almost an hour.
Finally, one of them turned around and said, so how are you?
It felt insincere so I felt insincere in response and said something
about it having been a long day.
The circumstances under which I am here are strained. The two women
are grieving for the loss of Old Friend #1’s mother and strained
about planning a service in the country for so many people when there
is minimal infrastructure for it. Housing. Food. Even porta potties
will have to be arranged. So this is probably not the best time to meet
the new woman that a close friend is dating.
All of that I understand. But at lunch today at the Crossroads, a wonderful
old diner in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, where they were discussing retirement
options, Old Friend #1 fixed an eye on me and said, “Of course,
Potential will live with us. She could teach at the college here.”
She was only half joking. Old Friend #1 is a woman who has held the
same job for thirty years. Earlier in the day, she was catching Potential
up with the news of mutual friends, including one who had recently moved.
“I do not understand why people move away from the people they
love,” she said.
But she was talking about friendship, about how people could leave their
friends to go some place or do something new.
And I wondered, what about love. What if someone’s love relationship
takes them in a different direction? Or if they just need to explore
a different path. To not keep the same job for 30 years, even if it
is a good job with a worthwhile purpose.
It was clear to me that Old Friend #1 was referring in a round about
way to Potential, who had moved back to St. Louis ten years ago to be
with a new lover, pursue different work and help her family. It is almost
as if, having lost her mother, she is casting her net and wanting to
reel in her dearest friends.
Friday, July 14, 2006