My two oldest friends looked at each other from across the wooden table.
They turned to look at me.
I looked at the restaurant floor. Shrugged. Finally, stammered: “Can you ask more specific questions?”
The three of us were eating dinner at a spacious Greek restaurant on University, sharing plates of hummus and cucumber salad and celebrating their upcoming birthdays and my recent return from Minnesota, where, I had told them, but just barely, that I had met someone, and that, despite my initial certainty that they wouldn’t, things had gotten serious–serious enough for me to be considering, again, a cross-country move.
They wanted to know more.
A moment earlier, I had tried to dodge their inquiry.
“I kind of don’t feel like talking about it,” I said–the comment that had prompted their stunned stares, and all our collective bafflement.
“Never in your life have you not wanted to talk about a boy,” S said. “What’s going on?”
I wasn’t sure. Cooperative, they asked particular questions (“Um, what’s he like?”); apologetic, I did my best.
By the end of the meal, of course, I was eagerly slipping anecdotes into conversation: the time he sweetly over-hyped my love of bacon, how gamely he had come along for brunch with my ex.
And after dinner and gelato and dispatching R to the subway at West 4th, S and I hugged goodbye in Union Square Park.
“Do you think it’s a good or bad thing?” I asked. “That I don’t want to talk about it?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “But it’s definitely different.”
The best rationale I could summon was that I feel, rather terminally, like the “girl who cried boy”: so many times have I come to friends bearing certain, over-exuberant, and, often, fast-fleeting affections–how could I expect them to trust me now?
There’s a scene in the new movie Frances Ha where Greta Gerwig‘s character, drunk and disoriented at a dinner party far more adult than she feels, delivers a monologue on what she’s looking for in life, or love, she isn’t sure, but, you know: it’s that moment, she says, when you and your partner are out at a party and both of you are engaging with other people and all of a sudden you catch one another’s eye and exchange a knowing glance–not driven by jealousy, or lust, but the simple knowledge that you are there together, and that between you there is a fierce but invisible bond; a “secret world,” she calls it, like one of those dimensions we know exist but can’t percieve.
I share this for a couple of reasons. First, as a vehicle to announce that I am undergoing a period of Greta Gerwig Envy presently exhibiting as a delusion that she and I are essentially the same. Discuss.
And, less narcissistically, second, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the utter, impenetrable mystery of what goes on between two people.
I have focused much of the past year on investigating a woman who died before I was born. I have searched for her in interviews and letters and transcripts and diaries, but the interviews have been what I’ve liked best. Some have led to new friendships; one in particular, this woman’s closest friend, I’ve grown, even, to love.
We’d known each other before. But in this process we’ve grown closer. A few months ago we sat together on her couch in the Ocean Beach section of San Diego drinking red wine and fumbling to operate an ill-designed slideviewer, and I felt a sudden awareness of the lively, happy energy between us, the product of shared moments and space. It occurred to me that was something I’d never experience with the woman whose photographs we spent that weekend digging up. But in the moment, I didn’t feel that particular loss so much as a celebratory delight in what else I’d found: a new appreciation for the specialness of human connection.
What grows in the space between two people does seem another dimension: a force field of sidelong looks and kinds of touch and accumulated scraps of shared things. And it is impossible to explain. Even to understand it as a participant is challenging–but to express that field, that energy, all that stuff to another person?
I don’t know how.
And as I try to fathom my resistance to describing this new intimacy I’ve found, this lovely, dynamic, growing thing, I wonder if the answer is as simple as that.