Gelatinous Friendship

“What a lovely surprise. You came all the way here? Where do live?”

“In the city,” I reply.

“And you came all the way here? I appreciate you coming.”

I look at him quizzically. It was a twenty minute train ride and I came for the music. You may not know this, I said to him in my head, but people travel all over the place to hear you play. You know they actually pay for it too? They trade their money for these little pieces of paper called tickets. I immediately thought of the four old Romanian ladies who made the same trek as me, on the same train. Yeah, the music was easily worth a twenty minute train ride.

Although I got what he was saying. Calling us friends would be seriously jumping the gun, but if we were, I’d have come to support him in a heartbeat. Friends are worth infinitely more than music– even music this good. As it were, I hadn’t even expected the privilege of being able to speak with him at all. Heck, I wasn’t presumptuous enough to assume he’d even remember who I was, much less my name.

It got me thinking. Why is it a newsworthy event that I would travel half an hour to see a potential friend?

Because we don’t believe we’re worth it.

Think about it. When was the last time someone took a twenty minute train ride for the possibility of getting to speak to you for a chance of getting to know you better for a hope of maybe eventually becoming friends? We’re convinced that no one could care that much.

And that’s because most people don’t. I was talking to my brother today about how he had some friends from upstate New York drive an hour and a half to visit him every weekend or so– but only after a LOT of encouragement on his part. No mystery there. Think about the guts it would take for someone to say, “I’d like to see you so much that I’m willing to drive an hour and a half each way every weekend to make it happen. Would that also interest you?”

Just about no one has the balls for that. Think about the implications. You’re completely exposing yourself, opening yourself up to rejection and ridicule. Admitting that you really care about someone is a scary thing. Then they know they can hurt you. Unintentionally and understandably most of us care more about keeping up the appearance of independence than caring about people.

And of course there’s a difference between caring about someone and stalking them: the difference in being genuinely interested in their happiness and wanting something for yourself– a difference that I occasionally lose sight of.

But mostly the fact that I’d hop on a PATH train to Newark really IS newsworthy. I came for the music? Really, Veena? Who are you kidding? No, I came for half a minute of conversation with a possible friend. Certainly I could have settled for a night of spectacular music, but let’s be real. Friends matter. The art is just the icing. I’d almost do more for a potential friend because relationships require more nurturing before they are well established, like setting Jell-O in the fridge overnight. Forget it on the counter and it doesn’t do quite so well, does it?

That being said, listen up, Friend-O. I care about you a lot. And I’d do a lot for my friends. So if any of you ever need anything or want anything or think, “Well I could use some support with ___ but I probably don’t need it and so I won’t bother anyone,” ask me. Tell me. I want to help. Ask me even if we’re not yet friends (and then go back and reread what I said about potential friends). I try my best to gauge these things and offer whatever support in whatever capacity I can, but I’m only human. And often I won’t intrude unless asked.

But I’m here and I care.

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