Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Will you be my friend? (It sounds desperate written out like that.)

In fourth grade, during recess, a girl walked up to me while I was on the swings. She asked, "Do you want to be my friend?" I was taken aback; I remember that. I have no idea how I responded to her request, but I hope I was open and kind. I suspect I was not. I don't remember us becoming friends.

I do remember that her name was Amy and she was adopted. I remember aching for her when she was teased about this matter. Though I never teased her myself, in the grade-school hierarchy of desirable friends she was among the flawed. I must have rejected her invitation for friendship, perhaps a greater cruelty than teasing. How could I have been any higher than she in social status? I was alone on the swings, not with a playmate. She must have noticed and thought, there is a girl who, like me, needs a friend.

Yesterday evening in the grocery store, I think I may have been asked for the second time in my life, "Do you want to be my friend?" This woman, who looked exactly like the kind of person I might be friends with, walked up to me, a fat baby strapped in a carrier against her chest.

"Your baby has the most beautiful eyes," she said.

"Thank you."

"How old is he?"

"Three months." She stood waiting for me to take her cue. "How old is yours?"

"Five months."

I returned her initial compliment and made appropriate googly faces at her boy. The woman lingered.

"What's his name?"

"Desmond," I answered. I thought that would be it for our grocery store chatter, that it was time to go back to perusing cheeses.

"This is George," she responded. "Is Desmond your first?"

This was beyond a quick compliment from a stranger in a grocery store, wasn't it? Yet I was reserved. It was part-shyness, but I also didn't want to seem desperate or crazy--not like her--a woman who actually seemed perfectly nice. Should I have exchanged numbers with her, I wondered after we parted ways. I saw her again a few minutes later when I went to checkout. She was in another line, already at the register. After I payed, I looked for her in the parking lot, imagining I might chase her down and admit, "I don't know anyone in Austin who is anything like me and also has a new baby! Do you want to trade numbers?" But she was nowhere.

Why was my immediate response to again be taken aback and to judge her as desperate or crazy? Why couldn't I identify our commonality? Certainly it was not because of playground politics. I guess I wondered, who does that as an adult, asks a stranger to be friends? Would it have been too weird to channel fourth-grade-Amy and--my heart open to the possibilities--and say to the stranger eager to converse, "Yes! Let's be friends"?

1 comment:

  1. You can find her again. I had the same experience with a woman at the library story hour about 3 months after we arrived. She too was chasing a toddler around and we exchanged numbers and I was a little taken aback as people in england were definitely more reserved. But i made myself call her and although we have differences, she has been a great friend. xx