I thought I had enough: enough friends, enough social interactions, enough conversations throughout the day.
I equated friends with clothes; my drawer was full, so no need for more. I had my gym friends, my bikini friends, my evening gown friends, and my comfy hoodie-with-holes-in-it friends.
If I got any more, I was going to need to do a thrift store drop-off.
My status quo was rocked by an earthquake one morning. I sat alone at a table for two in the back corner of my neighborhood diner, quietly enjoying coffee. That’s when a man came up to me, shoved his phone under my nose, and said, “You remember Mickey? Here he is in his Halloween costume.”
At first I froze. Certainly he didn’t mean to talk to me. I thought he must have mistaken me for someone else. I didn’t even know Mickey, let alone remember him. Apparently he was a black cat who was forced to be a rabbit for the holiday.
Then John placed his keys next to the empty mug across from mine, sat down, and asked the waitress for coffee. I hated small talk, especially first thing in the morning. I talked about the weather eight hours a day at work; I didn’t intend to add to the tally.
“How much Prozac do you feed him to get him to stand still and pose like that?” I asked, assuming he would be offended and move to the empty counter. Instead he smiled and said, “You know, he’s old—just turned 17. He’s used to me by now.” I told him that he should have used a graduation cap and car keys instead. He laughed loudly and said he’d use my idea next year.
The waitress delivered my food as John ordered his. If I wasn’t so caffeine and egg dependent in the morning, I probably would have left. But my slow eating style, general curiosity at why he thought I was approachable when I am constantly told I am not, and amazement at how fast he talked and switched subjects got the best of me.
This was the only time I experienced twinship as an adult. I’ve made many deep, meaningful friendships over the years, but not like this. Most of my adult friendships have been a slow burn with some element of convenience—someone I met at work or a spouse of one of my husband’s friends. Each time we get a chance to chat, we connect about one additional thing, building a slow foundation before levels can be established. Wow, I can’t believe they like weird Bruce Campbell movies, too! What are the odds?! Years later, I have a friend who I can talk to about an array of topics. Sometimes we become text buddies, sometimes we become hiking mates, and sometimes we are the friendly face to look for in a crowd at a party.
This was different and I had experienced it only twice before. The first time was when I went up to Amy at recess and asked her why she was putting nail polish on the back of an ant’s body. I simultaneously became her research assistant and her childhood best friend on the spot. The second time was in high school when Harmony and I ditched our mutual friend who introduced us. We ended up sitting on her bed all night whispering about all the things we loved about Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, and Scott Weiland. Twenty years later, we have the same argument about who’s hotter (I mean more “talented”—we are adults now, jeez).
The twinkle in John’s eye and his disarming smile reminded me of Amy’s explanation of her research thesis about ants and Harmony’s dissertation about Vedder being a superior being. We ended up drinking a few pots of coffee before we left for work.
Any one of my “drawer” friends would tell you that I take a long time to warm up, and I don’t open up a lot, especially at first. John and I skipped the small talk and got right into the meat of life. After two hours, he knew more about me than a lot of so-called friends. We had similarly horrible taste in comedy movies, a very dark sense of humor, dealt with divorced parents at a young age, grew up with stepparents, moved around and changed schools in our teens, and even met our partners around the same time 15 years ago.
Happily, this one-chance encounter happened again and again, and a true friendship was built over hundreds of eggs and vats of creamers (I mean coffee). John turned into a bikini-evening gown-hoodie friend. Most surprisingly, I didn’t have to give up any other friend to tend to him. I had enough room to sustain the friendships I already had as I added him to the fabric of my daily life.
After 10 years of having a core group of friends, I didn’t realize that I had shut myself off. I didn’t consider that strangers or casual acquaintances really cared about me. I didn’t think that people retained details of my life until I allowed this friendship with John to blossom.
I often reflect on all the contented moments I’ve had with John since. And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, our friendship surged and my drawer made room for one more when we decided to introduce our better halves. John and I, and our partners have turned into a motley sort of family, cooking and baking for each other, buying treats for our cats, going on weekend trips, cheerleading during the rough times, group texting throughout, and sharing birthdays and holidays together.
The three of them make up my emergency contacts. My quality of life increased by an immeasurable amount, and I can’t imagine the past few years of my life without them.
I think of this when someone smiles at me in passing or a fellow yogi asks how I am. I don’t run and hide, pretend I didn’t hear them, or rush to the solace of my car anymore. I look them in the eye. I make a connection with their soul. I see where it leads.
I doubt I’ll ever meet another John. But I do know that I always have room in my drawer, and I won’t be the one to pass up the possibility.
Author: Lisa M. Shaia
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman