It was timely perfect that V called me last night. The movie I was watching was heading to the finale. I was feeling somewhat lonely and disconnected. My entire family went to visit their friend’s house in the country for a barbecue, except me. My parents were visiting from Tennessee for the short weekend and I probably should have played a family girl and hung out with my family but I just didn’t have that in me that afternoon.
So instead, here I was watching Fried Green Tomatoes alone in the dark living room on Sunday evening surrounded by the elements of a single woman’s life: a movie, a glass of wine, and a dark empty space. Then my cell phone rang.
It was V. She called to make sure I made through the Hurricane ok. We know about these natural disasters. We met in Hawaii, threatened by the tsunami warning once in a while. V was as alone as I was that night. She is doing an internship in the wild life center somewhere near the Columbia River. I remember driving through that region long time ago. It’s so bare. The population is very scattered.
“So who do you live with then?”
“There’s another intern right next door. It’s just the two of us. The nearest grocery market is 20 miles away!”
She is living my dream. She does bird watching, and studies flowers and trees. I asked her if she has seen bears yet. No, but I’ve heard they are around, she answered. I told her about my encounter with a bear during my Summer trip to the Great Smokies back in late July.
We finished out talk, and said good-bye. It was so nice to talk to her. Last time we met was the day she left the island. Almost two years ago. I was the last person she and her boyfriend saw before leaving the island. It wasn’t that I was their best friend. No. V and I only shared one paddling season of our racing days. But when we first met, it was like we knew each other all along. The duration of our physical closeness was very short, but that did not matter. Our spiritual connection ran so much deeper than the physical level.
Montaigne talks of La Boétie in his essay ‘Of Friendship’. He recalls the moment of their first meeting, where they found each other, and became: ‘so bound together, that from that moment on nothing could be as close as we were to one another.’ (Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life, Saul Frampton)
Ok, maybe not to that extreme degree, but we were instantly close when we met for the first time. I knew she would make a great friend right away. We were breaking down the booth tents at the local festival where we volunteered to raise funds for our racing teams.
“I was having a breakdown before I came out, and now I am breaking down the tents! What a synchronicity!”
She laughed immediately understanding my comment, and put her arms around my shoulders and gave ma a warm hug. Yet another depressive episode, yet another breakdown, but a refreshing encounter with a new dear friend, and I knew I was saved once again.
I resumed the movie after we got off the phone. Fried Green Tomatoes is about a lot of things. There are many moral teaching there. But as Idge concludes at the end of the movie, it’s about friendship. A genuine friendship that defies the physical closeness, mental memories, and the cold, cold fairness of give and take.
In this sense the special nature of friendship is not to do with the fact that it comes with no obligation, but because friendship necessarily activates and invigorates our proxemic senses: it arises when two bodies that had once been unknown to each other meet; as Montaigne says: they ‘embraced’ each other ‘by our names’, seeking each other out amidst the throng of a civic feast. (Montaigne and Being in Touch with Life, Saul Frampton)
So that night, while my family was away at their friend’s country house having a barbecue feast, and far and away from a civic feast of the whole society, V and I sought out each other and embraced each other back into life. We knew our names, and so much more about each other. We were friends because it was her; Because it was me, to quote Montaigne.