Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Return of the Native

(Alternate Title: Apologia To One Who Deserves It)

I'm back from my "working vacation": yes it's good to be back in my own home and in my kitchen and with my shelves of books, but I also wish I was still there with The Best Friend and some of the best Vietnamese food I've had since leaving American Vietnamese Village. It was a very good working vacation: I got a good amount of work done, and at night there was much fun had going out to eat, or just sitting around the kitchen table talking. The Best Friend and I don't go for more than a week without talking, and we are pretty good about emailing on top of that. Though for the past five years we've been living far away from each other, I make a point of visiting her, and she me, as much as we can wherever we are. So there was no need to have a high-pressured "let's see everything because I'm not coming back!" touring holiday, or "let's talk for 6 hours and tell me everything I've missed out on!" since there's very little to update her on from the previous week's conversation. I like that. When you are true friends, the work of the friendship is diligent and dedicated maintenance, but that's much easier than relationship building from scratch. We do work on keeping our friendship strong and current, but it's not really "work." And having grown up with her, I feel like I know her well and don't need so many words to discover her. There is an intimacy there that exists in the space between words, in the silent, smiling looks of undertanding. It was a wonderful holiday, each night, just reveling in the exotic pleasure of having her company.

Since coming back, I've been hanging out with French Dandy Dude a lot, in addition to Russian Macho Dude and my Super Sociologist Friend from college, who visited for a night. French Dandy Dude and I are getting along very well, not really like siblings--that's a weird analogy that does not fit my first truly platonic male friend--but rather like distant cousins who turn out to enjoy each other's company. You know that feeling? That you have very little in common with your immediate family but love them anyway; and loads in common with your friends but would only designate the women as being "like sisters" in that "sisterhood" feminist power. So it's like meeting one of those distant second or third cousins who grew up in a very different way from you at a large family gathering, and discovering that they actually have a fair amount in common with you against expectations. Because you don't expect to actually like, as friends, anyone in your family.

French Dandy Dude and I could not be more biologically distant, but it's that same weird feeling. We constantly mention how if we had met only three years ago, we would not be friends: he is too bourgie and upper-class; and I have too many class issues (currently upper-middle but formerly lower working) to forbear such elitist entrapments as "Gentlemen's Clubs" or "lacrosse" or "opera boxes"--and I was pretty much a bratty bitch about it all. Morally superior. And so is he, in the opposite direction. It's one of those things were I don't think I expected to like him as a person or be such good friends with him, yet here we are. Against all reason and so improbably, a bourgie uppercrust English educated French man is friends with a populist/struggling elitist totally American girl from the (literally) wrong side of the tracks. If this were a movie, it'd be a romantic comedy, except (blessedly) there is no romance to complicate this. See, he really is like my second cousin: one of those things were you know you just can't go there. There's a huge ick factor with the former, and, come to think of it, the latter.

He makes me appreciate my hypocritical elitism, the ephemeral beauty (ignoring the utility or cost) of life: an amazing pastry and cup of espresso, a beautiful dress that turns heads, the rough paintstrokes of my favorite paintings up close (as opposed to in a textbook), and the fleeting look of beauty that is that look of pure pleasure in oneself. He is walking decadance. I make him realize all of the class/gender/racial dimensions of everything (I am a sanctimonious bitch), the pleasure of fine stationary and pens for writing people you admire or care about, and an aggressive sense of democracy to anything and everything as I struggle with my class issues. It's a good friendship. He's not yet (and can't really be) "The" Best Friend (note definite article), but he can be "A" best friend. He's been awful good to me cooking for me in my thesis hell and accompanying me on my errands just for the company, and we support each other in our academic efforts and personal relationships (or lack thereof, I choose to be ambiguous and not write about my persona life). Moreover, I think we're getting used to being silent together as much as we talk, and that's a skill.

We're hanging out now, at a cafe, silently focusing on our own screens. There was much talking today. And now there is space between us. But it is a good kind of space--the kind that you can reach across, tappingly lightly on the shoulder, to say "I see your face, and I know what you're thinking."