Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

The damp, dreary black of night, heavy with humidity, mirrors the state her heart. She buries herself under the bundle of bed sheets and blankets as if they shield her from the outside world. The sounds of raindrops dancing on the rooftop aren’t enough to help Madeline sleep tonight. But they never are anymore. She remembers when they were enough to make her forget where she was, even who she was, as she lost herself in the tantalizing tango from above. When they were soft and soothing…her eyelids their puppets as they willed her to sleep. But the rain no longer has that effect on her.

Since he left…every sound, every sensation was a reminder that he was gone. She could no longer disappear dreamily into the rain dance over her head. No longer sway gently in her dreams to the romantic raindrop rendezvous. Now it was different. Now she was a prisoner trapped inside the tango, unable to dance along…being tossed around in the chaos that is her heart. The raindrops and the metal rooftop colliding with heated intention and frustration, building her up only to let her down over and over again in cyclical misery.

There was pain in the rain. Pain in everything, now.

He was her best friend, her soul mate. Though she had never believed in soul mates, her connection with Trey challenged everything she thought she knew to be true. It was one of those things that a girl doesn’t believe in until it stares her square in the eye, stands its ground, and double dares her to doubt. Double dare or not, she did doubt. It wasn’t in her nature not to question. She could no sooner ignore her skepticism than she could stop breathing. So doubt, she did. Her heart and her gut, all the while, whispering to her that he was her soul mate, that the magnitude of this connection could be nothing less. But her brain, more trustworthy, continued to cast doubt with a louder, more authoritative inner voice. Surely she was just clouded by love and infatuation. Surely. How could she have fallen so hard, so quickly? She tried to convince herself that he had fallen just as hard. That he had to be feeling the same thing she felt. And she did for a while. But somehow she knew that her heart would pay the price for the charges her brain kept tallying. And just as she knew it would, the bill had finally come. And it was heftier than she thought. She wasn’t sure she would ever pay it off.

They had met 4 years ago. It was an accidental meeting. Right place, right time. Neither of them was looking. Yet it seemed they were drawn together, as if they were the last two creatures alive. The spark was instant. The flame, inevitable. From the moment they met, she craved more. Each hour spent with him only fed her addiction. She was starving and he was her nutrition. And she was sure she was his. Each time Trey touched her, she felt electricity that she had never known before. Each time he spoke her name, she felt she had never heard it spoken with such command and desire. With every meeting of their eyes, there was his soul…greedily drinking hers in as if his life depended on it. The sound of his voice was intoxicating to her…making her drunk with anticipation. They spent the next 4 years learning everything they could about each other. They needed to know every detail, big or small. Every flaw, or strength. Every humiliating story, or triumph. Every ambition, or disappointment. Every fear. Every laugh. Every turn on. Every turn off. He was the only person on Earth who knew her deepest, most private thoughts…with whom she trusted her innermost self completely. They shared the darkest of secrets they both knew could never be uttered to another living soul. And then there was the sex… When they made love, it felt as if she was more naked than she had ever been. Both physically and emotionally. They connected on a level so transcending, it seemed to defy possibility and mock all of their previous human interactions.

Trey and Maddy had quickly become a dance. When one moved, the other moved. When one reached, the other grabbed hold. They trusted one another with anything. With everything. They seemed to have no choice. Feeling bigger than the two of them, the universe had connected their cores. It had connected their hearts. There was some gravitational pull that kept their souls dancing along to a song only they could hear.

For Maddy, everything made sense with him around. Her purpose. Her existence. Life not only made more sense with Trey. It made her happier than she ever knew she could be. She never imagined something so perfect would ever end. Not really end.

But on a regular Monday, with no forewarning, it did just that.

Suddenly, Trey just disappeared from her life. She didn’t realize this immediately, of course. She called him, sent him flirty texts. But nothing. After days turned into weeks with no response, she became increasingly worried. Increasingly empty.

She did finally get one text from him, but only one. Three words, to be exact.

“I just can’t.”

She tried to talk to him…ask questions, beg for answers. But nothing. She had no idea what had changed. Nothing had happened, nothing she knew of… One day they were dancing along perfectly in sync. And the next, he had left the dance floor.

Time passed.

Trey didn’t call. He didn’t text. No apologies, no reasons, no regrets, no maybe laters, no anything. He just walked away. Why? Had she done something? Had he done something? Why didn’t he say goodbye? To Maddy, this was what hurt the most…the nothingness. Just. Nothing. Everything they had shared, the intense connection that rocked her existence, the love that followed…seemed to mean nothing. She had put her heart, raw and dependent, in his hands, with complete trust and confidence that he would keep it beating. He hadn’t. Everything they had, everything, had vanished.

It took, with it, all of her.

She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. She could only feel. But feeling was too painful…too debilitating.

Her brain had convinced her heart of only one possibility. One possible explanation that flipped her insides upside down, stole her breath, and suffocated her heart with callous malice.

He had never loved her…

The raindrops are getting more intense. Maddy is trapped inside the, now, one person tango that is her heart. Unable to sleep, she tries to make sense of her heartbreak. It never comes. Frustration and loneliness. These are her dance partners now, as she steps on her own toes and falls time and time again. She lies in bed, predicting and dreading each and every treacherous raindrop.

Maddy pulls the cover over her head to escape the rain…to escape the dance…to escape Trey.

The drops are slamming into the rooftop as if begging to be let in. As if the world outside is too intense. And they, like her, need to escape.

The rain continues. The pounding on the rooftop. The pounding on her heart. No peace. No rhythm. No purpose.

She surrenders to the tears that are now refusing to be restrained. To her heart that is refusing to be silenced. Her tears become the rain. Her rain drags on, exhausting her.

And just like that, the rain stops.

The dance is done.

She lies there in the heavy darkness…listening to the silence.

Longing for sleep.

Longing for the dance that once was.
For the music she may never hear again.

Sleep found her…

Maddy woke to the chirps of her resident blue jay. He was at his usual post…a branch nestled inside the towering red maple tree outside her window. His chirps were an insult to the sadness she had committed herself to indefinitely. Damn bird. Damn happiness.

She rolled over to check her phone. Her phone illuminated one single text. From Trey.

“Hi.”

~Chick Hughes

Birthdays are celebrations of life. But even in death, one’s life and memory can be celebrated.  My baby sister would have turned 40 today.  Five years ago, she celebrated her final birthday in a hospital, hanging on to life support.  She left behind her precious kiddos and family who miss her more than she probably ever thought possible.  As my sister and I were learning to juggle kids and family in our 30s, we were also slowly learning to appreciate this complicated dynamic called sisterhood…which had been strained for so many years.  We were only beginning to understand that the little things are just that…little things.  That the big things are what matter…the memories we create, the unwavering support through life’s trials, the understanding that sisters are the ties that bind…no matter the little things.  One summer, just as we were figuring this out, not long before we lost her, Mandy and I took a getaway trip to a casino.  No kids.  Just the two of us.  The first time we had ever done a sister trip, we had more fun than I ever imagined we could together.  It was as if we suddenly remembered what it was like to laugh together, like we were the only two in on a joke.  We hysterically giggled our way through getting lost, losing money on the slot machines, finding that the valet had left our sunroof open for the 2 rain-filled days we were there,  and a very wet ride home on squishy, puddled seats.  We even giggled at our girlish giggling.  I regret that this was the one and only time we ever got away as sisters and left all of life’s noise behind.  Now, there are only memories…memories that make me smile or laugh and, of course, memories in the end that hurt beyond words.  But the real pain lies in the fact that there could have been so many more good ones, given the time.  There were so many things she never got to do, to experience, to see.  I find that with every new experience I have, with every new place I travel, with every new life development…regret finds me…regret that she isn’t here to do it with me.  That she was cheated of so much that life has to offer.  It’s in these moments that the familiar grief washes over me once again.  The loss.  Her loss of watching her children grow, of having grandchildren, of seeing the world, of everything we take for granted.  Her children’s unimaginable loss of having a mother to turn to, to rely on, to love.  My loss of a sister, of a friend, of opportunity to build on a foundation we were just learning we had.  So much loss.

Five years out, the loss is still so tangible.  Today that loss lies in the inability to wish my baby sister a happy birthday on a day we celebrated for so many years.  Her day.  This grief is a roller coaster of memories, tears, and regret.  Regret that instead of birthdays, all I have of her are yesterdays.  But after some thought, I have realized that throughout our life, I never shied away from giving her my two cents, often times two cents more than she wanted.  It may sound silly…it may be silly… but one thing that can live on is my two cents.  The one thing I have left of our sisterhood is that behind closed doors, whenever the mood strikes, I can still talk to her.  She may not answer me with words, but her memory lingers.  Memories of her answer me when she cannot.  So, with that, I’d like to wish her a happy birthday. What I would give to celebrate it with her today.  What I would give to have, with her, birthdays…instead of just yesterdays.

creationc

Girlfriends?  Boyfriends?  Or just friends?  Can men and women be friends without benefits?  We seem to think so.  However, I’m skeptical…for this is a question that, in all marriages, may just come “up” more often than he does.  Can my sweetie be “just friends” with a person of the opposite sex?  Well…maybe…if that person has a third eye, ear, or boob…and the extra boob disclaimer is iffy…that could backfire.  We first need to define “friend.”  A friend isn’t one of the hundreds of faces and statuses we see daily on social networks.  It isn’t a co-worker we see only at the office and speak to in passing, or even chat with in spurts.  And it isn’t the doorman, delivery man, or handyman we see and touch base with a few times a week.  Discussing mundane details regarding the sweltering weather or the day-to-day details of our riveting existence does not a friend make.  These are acquaintances, at best.  Then there are the friends we grew up with and still consider great friends, but only speak to occasionally and see even less.  With very little time to nourish the relationship…of course, we can manage these “friendships.”  And sometimes, not.  😉  The “friend” I’m referring to — the one that blurs the line — is the one with whom we share our deepest secrets and feelings, hang out with regularly, grab a bite or a movie with,  or call when we’re upset or excited…the one we look to for emotional support. Our shoulder to cry on.  Our ear to rely on.

For THIS is the male/female “friendship” standing trial.  The charges:  providing a pick-me-up, tripping us up, and ending in breakup.

We’re so sure we, ourselves, can successfully have platonic friends…yet not so sure about our spouses.  If our partner does develop a close friendship with someone other than us, we can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy…wonder why he/she needs that friend (aren’t we enough?)…obsess over just how “friendly” they are, or will be.  Before long, our imagination has eaten away at our brain and sanity like a nosy live-in mother-in-law on steroids.

However, psychologists now say a successful cross-sex friendship is not only possible, but beneficial.  Possible out of necessity…the idea that men and women couldn’t be friends, they say, came into play before women entered the workplace and had no reason, aside from romantic, to hang out with men other than their husbands.  They say men and women have been forced to successfully manage friendships due to working conditions.  Forced to…yes.  Successful at…questionable.  (So, according to this theory…if we force a sexual tension, the tension will dissolve?  I think workplace affairs have “blown that willy” out of the water.)

Experts say a cross-sex friendship is also beneficial to both men and women.  Men find they’re able to confide in and open up to a female friend in a way they simply can’t do with another guy.  This freedom to confide gives men a “shoulder” and benefits them emotionally.  Women, on the other hand, find they can be more laid back with a guy friend…walk on the lighter side a bit.  She’s able to temporarily escape the drama that lurks among women like the grim reaper…eager to take our souls over just one wrong word at just the wrong time.  Breaking news:  Women are sensitive and easily offended.  These benefits, though, are undeniably evident.  It’s also reported that in order for us to manage this successful cross-sex friendship, certain precautions must be made.  We must be up front, open, and honest about our friendship.  Address a possible sexual attraction.  Agree on how to handle that attraction.  Negotiate what the relationship means…define it.  And establish boundaries.  If we define and manage it, psychologists say, a platonic friendship is very much possible.  Men and women can, in fact, be friends.

The defense rests.

How very optimistic of them.  Life always goes according to plan, doesn’t it?  😉

And now…the prosecution.  The psychologists have determined one thing…yet, proven another through studies, interviews, questionnaires, etc.   One study consisted of 150 professional men/women.  Sixty-two percent of them reported sexual tension present in their cross-sex friendships.  Men claimed that sexual attraction was a prime reason for initiating a friendship in the first place.  Hmmm, really?  A separate study questioned 1,450 members of Match.com.  The answers were oh so contradictory and proved us to be optimistically hypocritical.

~ 83% believed men and women could be platonic friends.

~62% say they’ve been engaged in a platonic friendship that has crossed the line.

~94% say it’s possible to fall in love with someone who starts out as a friend.

~71% hope that once they find a romantic partner, that partner would have been a friend first.

So, the majority asked declared with certainty that men and women could be friends without sex ever entering the equation; however, this same majority admitted to crossing the line, falling in love with a friend, and hoping to marry a friend.  Get a calculator!  This doesn’t quite add up.  Wishful thinking, perhaps?

Cosmo has done its own informal questionnaire.  Findings confirm that most men wouldn’t mind if a platonic friendship moved to the next level.  It also found women truly believe they can be friends with the opposite sex…believe being the operative word.  Eighty percent of the women interviewed underestimate just how often their male friends are attracted to them.  I’ll now refer back to the previous result in which men declared a sexual attraction to be the main motivator for initiating a friendship.  It seems we attempt to be intellectually driven, but remain a slave to our loins.  Our minds may be evolved, but our animal drive to mate refuses to make the transition.  Damn sex drive!

Psychologists also say that males and females participate in “voluntary gender segregation.”  This refers to our tendency to group up with members of the same sex.  “NO GIRLS ALLOWED!”  Sound familiar?  From the time we’re tots, we gravitate towards same sex groups.  We tend to stay in these groups until we reach puberty, lest we catch “cooties.”  Our main motivator for leaving and seeking out members of the opposite sex is our looming sex drive.  Once we settle on a mate and marry, we once again find ourselves gravitating towards members of the same sex for recreational fun.  And achieving and maintaining a “friend” of the opposite sex becomes more difficult…why?  Jealousy!  We know what that “friend” is thinking, don’t we?  Because that’s what we’d be thinking…though we’d never admit it.

So, can men and women be friends?  We seem pretty enthusiastic, in theory, that we’re perfectly capable of separating romance and friendship.   But, as the studies indicate, that very thin line can blur quicker than the vision of a drunk on a tilt-a-whirl.  When it comes to applying the theory and taking one of two routes, the libido seems to be the path of least resistance.  Plenty of short-cuts and few stop lights.

When put on the stand and asked the infamous question, “Can men and women be friends?”  we say “Yes, absolutely, men and women can be friends.  Sex won’t get in the way.”  But are we kidding ourselves?  Are we denying our own animal instincts?  Convincing ourselves we’re better than that.  Are we better than that?  When it comes to the case of male/female friendships…are we perjuring ourselves?

Can men and women be “just friends?”  It seems the jury is still out.  I think not.  But you decide.

Chick Hughes

Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable Oscar Wilde