circle of friends

My circle of friends is composed of well-read, politically active people who are quick to judge and easy to annoy. They go to poetry readings, they work for nonprofit organizations either full time or on a volunteer basis and they are very vocal. They stay current on pop culture, indulge their artistic tendencies and speak in a Spanglish combination that takes years to perfect if you’re not born to it. They are a merciless bunch that have somehow become the barometer against which I measure others and myself. They are unique in a way that makes them almost irreplaceable.

Is that enough to consider them truly my friends? Somehow, I don’t think so.

What’s the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? I’ve been wondering about this for a while. I know a lot of people. People I met in high school. People I met in college. People I’ve worked with in a variety of different places. People I’ve met through my family, their friends and family. There are a lot of people I spend time with. I call them and they call me. We do lunch. We watch movies, we exchange personal information and sometimes we call each other friends.

What makes them friends and not acquaintances? Is it just the amount of time we spend together or the things we do when we hang out?

The truth is that even though I spend a lot of time with my circle of friends, I wouldn’t think to call them when I’m feeling blue. I wouldn’t go to them and tell them about the shadows in my nightmares, about the fears that take hold of me from time to time, about wishing that I had less of a conscience and was able to sell out my beliefs and ideals. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about my fantasy to run away without ever looking back. I’d be too afraid of telling them too much, of revealing too large a part of myself. I’d be too afraid of being judged and hearing their mocking words or seeing their belittling stares. And maybe I’d be worried about nothing, maybe they’d be understanding and supportive, but I don’t believe so and so I don’t confide in them.

Does that mean that they’re bad friends, that I’m a bad friend or that we’re not really friends at all?

I don’t bond easily. I don’t trust easily. To make you understand the whys and why nots I’d have to show you the tapestry of my life and that would take too much time. The fact is that I’m not in the habit of turning to others for comfort and support. But even if I were, I’ve chosen to spend my time with a group of people who would never make the offer, who would never try to comfort me. They would tell me how to make it better, with an ounce of impatience in their voices, and then they’d move on to more important things.

I know that this rant doesn’t make one damn bit of sense to anyone else. It’s grounded in some personal stuff that’s going on right now. And, no, I don’t intend to share the particulars of what’s going on. One thing I did decide, when I saw the reaction to Lizzie’s journal, was that I’m not going to give you every single detail of my life.

I guess you’re not really my friends either.

día de luto

When do you grieve for someone?

Several years ago a friend of mine called me to let me know that Victor had died. He had been my first boyfriend, the guy who took me to senior prom, my ever-loyal enamorado. He was my best friend’s brother in junior high and became my boyfriend when I was 14. It didn’t last long, we broke up over a fight about nothing. I didn’t speak to him for more than a year. When I finally did start talking to him again it was to spite someone else. Not exactly the nicest thing I’ve ever done, but it did make us friends again.

Victor was the guy that hung around me and my friends. I was always very clear with him. But I guess he figured that as long as I didn’t have another boyfriend he still had a chance. And I never did have another boyfriend, at least not while I was in Mexico. And, because I knew he would never misunderstand, I asked him to be my date to prom. I remember that he brought me flowers that day. And I remember that we had a great time. And then I moved away.

My childhood bedroom is filled with tokens of his affection. Little things that my romantic soul couldn’t get rid of. And he remained my enamorado, even going so far as sending me a letter here in Houston asking if there was a chance we might ever get back together. And I never answered the letter.

I heard he got married shortly after that. Four months later, he died in a car accident. And I grieved. I felt so sad, so sorry. I had known him for so long and had nothing but good memories of him. I didn’t even get a chance to go to the funeral.

Yesterday I received another phone call. The other all-consuming male presence in my teenage life, Gabriel, died the day before. Gabriel was my first truly physical relationship. I could look into his beautiful brown eyes and feel irritation, excitement, and friendship. Frequently all at the same time. And I loved it.

Gabriel was the bad boy, the guy I wasn’t supposed to like. He drank, he smoked, he got into fights a lot. He was the guy all the girls wanted. He was nice to me and he made me want to do things that good girls didn’t. And I loved it.

Describing my relationship with Gabriel has always been difficult. We were friends. He was never my boyfriend. It was never anything serious. He respected my personality and loved to argue with me about everything. We liked to spend time together. We got along. And then I moved away.

I grieved for Gabriel 6 years ago when I found out that he had been sent to jail. His sister is married to my uncle and I’ve kept up with him through her. He was caught up in the drug trade in Mexico and was sentenced to 20 years. I can’t imagine being buried alive for 20 years. Having everybody else go on with their lives while yours is stuck in limbo. Even though a part of me wants to say that he knew what he was getting into, a part of me felt very saddened by it. And I grieved for his loss.

I cannot feel the sadness I should right now. He’s dead. D-E-A-D. Why don’t I feel anything but a pale sort of distress? Shouldn’t I be grieving for him now? Or did I do all my grieving when he went to prison? Is it really that simple? I can’t believe that my heart and my mind would have written him out simply because he was behind bars. Or maybe I saw this coming and did my suffering ahead of time.

No matter what the reason, my soul está de luto. The two most important guys in my teenage life — my first loves, I suppose you could say — are gone forever.