The day we brought Oliver home from the hospital, I sat in the backseat with him. He was so little. Soooo little. Just five pounds. I sat in the back and held his tiny hand on the way home, and took a photo, which I entitled ‘my new best friend’. I wrote said caption to be cute, and because, hormones. A friend to me, however, he was not. He was the other half of an arranged marriage. An unknown. Yet all mine.
Nic and I are best friends. From the second I met him, it was like I had sailed home. Comfortable. True. Love, yes. But even more, friendship.
My niece and I have been friends since the beginning. Good friends. She wanted me at all of her parties, and she would call me like seven times a week, aged two on. She left me voicemails, put me in her prayers, and told her little gal friends about me.
She’s nearly eleven. And while I would still call us friends, the waters are getting rough. Last week, I took her to a movie. I was laughing out loud happily when I heard her huff a little, puffing air out over her bottom lip. I turned to see her face, lit by the movie screen. There was annoyance in her eyes. She whispered my name in rebuke, and in all caps. “K-E-L-L-Y!”
And just a few months ago, we were shopping in the mall when I began to sing along with the overhead song. “STOP IT, KELLY,” she warned me, perturbed. I looked up, in horror, and spat back. “What!? Um. NO. This is the sound of joy. Do you not like THE SOUND OF JOY!?”
I began to sing the tune again, and she came at me. “STOP. IT.” “NOW.”
Her friend shook her head in agreement. Yes. Yes; they needed me to stop.
“Wow,” I said, sickened. “I can’t believe this. I thought you guys had big hearts!”
“We do,” my niece retorted. “But we have small minds.”
Our friendship is waning. Youth has gotten the best of her.
Oliver and I have made good on God’s arrangement. Whereas I once tolerated his presence in my body, then made space for him on earth, finally, I am standing, rooted in love and friendship, on solid ground.
Nic and I fight so rarely that I struggle when we do. Should I participate with zeal or just let this one slide?
Tonight, I really bit in and held on for dear life. Per usual, when things have reached their very height, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the very cruelest and most untrue thing I could think to spurn him with.
“You are so mean!” I screamed.
“You – are – Not – My – Friend!”
I punctuated my attack with a door slam. And voila! Oliver awoke, completely out of his mind.
Fuck. Fuck you and fuck this and fuck it I’ll be the one to go in and save our little darling, I muttered under my breath.
I entered the room and felt my way around. I found a tear-faced, long-haired baby boy seated in his crib. I placed my hands on his hand, caressing his curls over and over again. He calmed. He snorted his little snots back into his nose, and for a moment, I thought, by golly, he’s gone back to sleep sitting up.
And then, in his pitch black bedroom, I felt something reach out and grab my hand. Who knows how long his wobbly little palm had been searching for mine. But I sensed it. The way we sense need and respond, almost robotic at times. I took his little hand and there we stayed, hand-holding for the slowest five minutes of my life. I couldn’t make out his face, couldn’t gaze at the beauty it is to me. My eyes offered no feedback; it was all feeling. I reveled in the tiny creases that cover his baby hands, the fat that will live on the tops of his knuckles for not much longer. The fingernails that only I have ever cut.
How long will we be friends? A lifetime? Can the creases in his hand give me a hint?
I left his room and found my way to mine. Nic was there, primed for sleep, and I stood nearby, in the middle between soft and hard, trying to decide.
His hand found me. How did I find it, in the dark, again, when I couldn’t see?
Friendship, my love, is the wave we ride in on.