I'm not going to get all preachy here (I hope), but I think the term "friendship" has taken on different meanings in the last few years, with the outbreak of social networking and all that. Really, who would have imagined that the word friend would become a verb? As in, "Friend me," or "That creepy guy friended me on facebook." Like love, the word has lost a lot of meaning due to this overuse. Let's face it, how many of your facebook friends are people you feel affection or personal regard for, or would even buy lunch?
Well, personally, I have affection and personal regard for a select group of people whom I consider true friends, a distinction they have all earned. However, one of them in particular fits my definition of what a friend should be perhaps more than the rest. This person would no doubt jump in front of a bus for one of her friends, although thankfully, that's never been proven. She is someone with the willingness to help anyone in need, and the passion to get it done. In fact, she probably has more passion for life in her pinkie toe than I have in my whole body. She is cute and funny and smart and driven and very, very concerned for those less fortunate and people who don't wear helmets while biking.
And she's moving away.
In the summer of 2003, when I was going my lowest point in life, Melissa started working in the main office of my building. I learned that she was a Quincy resident, but when I informed her of this (slightly excited to be living in my own apartment), she said, "I'm sorry." Bubble burst, for sure, but she was right.
Years before social networking, Melissa and I became friends. It was a time I surely needed it, but I won't take any credit for it. The reason we initially became friends was because she kept including me in all of her stuff (which usually involved drinking). It was a new thing for me, having just come out of an insular long-term relationship. It was just through the benevolence of Melissa that I had any life at all. I shudder to think how I would have gotten through that rough patch if I had to sit around my studio every night.
And those are true friends for you: they are there when you need them most. All it took was her saying, "Want to come over tonight? We're watching the game." or whatever, but it meant a lot to me. Those late night drinking sessions at the Sunset Cantina will always go down as some of the best times of my life. I watched Game 4 of the 2004 World Series at her apartment. I went on my first camping trip because she invited me, plus my first canoe trip, my first U.S. Open, winery tour and my first protest in support of same-sex marriage. An eclectic list, to say the least. Some of my fond memories:
* After a particularly epic session at the Cantina, no one in our group noticed that the gratuity was included on our bill, so we ended up doubling the tip. Melissa went in for lunch the next day, and our waitress from the previous night said, "Nice tip last night." Slightly embarrassing, but I'm sure she earned it.
* When Melissa invited me to go with her to the State House to support the same-sex marriage bill, she asked me, "You know why gay people want to get married, right?" I said, "Melissa, I don't know why anyone wants to get married, but I'm all for freedom." It was a cold, crazy day out there, and an interesting experience to say the least, but the best part was later that night, Melissa e-mailed me to thank me for going with her. Truly, I wouldn't have missed it for anything.
* When Melissa and I lived near each other in Quincy, she was out sick one day, but called me to ask if I would bring home a package she had delivered to her office. I was shocked to discover that the package was from Good Vibrations, goodies she had ordered when she had hosted a sex-toy party. I just knew that was the day I was going to get hit by the bus on my way home, and they would give my mother the package, and she would be horrified. believe me, I taped the Hell out of that package before I left the building.
Obviously, there are many, many more. It's been a great seven years. I know I had some sour moments in there, when Melissa wasn't exactly pleased with some of my immature comments, so I apologize for all of that. But overall, I think we've both come a long way over the last seven years, and I know Melissa will do well in her new job and new life. I'm fairly certain we'll see each other again, but it will be destination programming, which will hopefully make our times together that much funner. But knowing that she isn't right down the street will make me sad. Someone like her only comes along every thousand lifetimes, and I feel fortunate to have shared a few beers with her. Although, in retrospect, and mostly due to her outgoing, unrestrained, downright spazzy passion, I think we've shared a lot more than that.