Every once in a while, something happens that makes me think of all the people who’ve moved in and out of my life over the years.

Some of these people were childhood friends who probably don’t know how much of an impression they made on me, much less know that I still think about them. The fourth-grade classmate who was into horses who got me into horses who moved away before we reached high school. My first boyfriend, who felt up my leg in the dark at the high school planetarium on a fifth-grade field trip. The daughters of old family friends. We hadn’t been in touch in decades and suddenly, out of the blue, reconnected this year after our mothers died.

Sometimes the friends you make stay and stay and stay. For years. I am blessed to have more than just a few friends on this list. If you’re lucky, all three of your brothers are on this list. Yesterday John suggested I fly to see one of my friends who’s on this list and I burst into tears. I miss her more than I thought.

Sometimes you have friends you get mad at for six years, during a time when you leave your borderline-personality ex and your mother is not speaking to you. And then you get back together and it’s like you never broke up.

There are the friends you make on social media. There are the friends you went to high school with, with whom you reconnect on social media. Some are utter joys to know again. Some you wish you’d left in your memory of how they were back then.

There are the brand-new friends. The ones who treat you to lunch. With whom you have intelligent conversations. Who understand your soul. You don’t yet know if they are here for the time being or the long haul. It doesn’t matter. They are here now, and so are you.

There are the friends who die. Who will stay with you every day for the rest of your life. And who knows, maybe after that too.

There are the friendships that you thought were friendships, but then discover they never really were to begin with. The borderline-personality artist you befriend immediately after leaving your borderline-personality ex. The impossibly arrogant, self-important woman from high school. The despicable human being who goes on to scare the shit out of you for a year after you say, “I’m done.”

This time, the something-that-happened that made me think about all the friends who’ve come and gone and stayed was the end of another friendship that never really was. It happened just a few weeks ago, when someone I once considered a friend blindsided me with a very long and ludicrous email. As I read it on my phone in the laundromat, I laughed out loud in places.

“Must be something really good,” said the young woman next to me, smiling.

“Life is too short,” said a friend – who happens to be a new friend and someone I consider smart, cool, collected – just two days ago.

The fallout from the breakup of this friendship, among other things, makes me think of the in-and-out, the life-and-death of friendships. It happens to every single one of us. I don’t know how we survive it sometimes. But we do.

“Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant,” writes Stephen King in his novel The Body. Thank goodness for the ones who teach us something we need to learn before they move on. Who’ve given us good memories. Fantastic memories.

Thank goodness for the ones who stay. No matter how they stay.

We saw Lake Street Dive when they opened for Los Straitjackets at Turner Hall in Milwaukee last fall, and were blown away. (The whole night blew us away, really.) “Miss Disregard” is on their studio CD, Lake Street Dive. Their new EP is Fun Machine

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10 Comments

  1. I have had the same best friend since 1968. It does not matter that we followed different paths in life and barely had contact with each other for better than a decade. I always knew she was my best friend and that she was there, and she knew the same of me. When we reconnected it was evident our two hearts had been entwined without words all those years.

    Then last week I had a small medical procedure. I was very nervous. One nurse made her kindness to me so personal it felt as if she had been my friend for years. She eased my fears and comforted me so generously that there is no way to properly thank her. She was my best friend of the hour.

    It seems friendship has no clear definition nor duration. It is a great and mysterious gift that we receive with gratitude and humility.

    • Yes: those chance angels you meet on the street, on the bus, in the middle of the grocery store…who are with you for one millionth of a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of time, say or do something really profound, and then leave you forever. Until another one comes along. Beautifully put, Denise. Thank you.

  2. I often struggle with the “out” part of the motion of friendships. It’s silly, really, to think that every friend we ever make should stay a friend forever. I mean, how would we ever make time for any of them if we just accumulated them over a lifetime? I also struggle sometimes to let a wonderful chance encounter remain just that and resist the temptation to try to “make” it into a permanent connection. Sometimes that happens. I think that’s what we mean by becoming “fast friends.” But sometimes, just as we are wise to let go of some friendships, we are wise to recognize that the very fleetingness of a short-term encounter with a special soul, like Denise’s nurse, is part of what makes it so special.

    • “I also struggle sometimes to let a wonderful chance encounter remain just that and resist the temptation to try to ‘make’ it into a permanent connection.” Me too, Christina. Thank you for your wonderful comment. You are right on.

  3. Cin, I am all caught up on all your blogposts and was going to comment on The Laundromat, when I read Adios, Summer; and now, this one. Honest to God, I love the way you write.
    The Friends That Come and Go made me think of the times when I made friends during intense circumstances. These friends know you better than anyone, but once the circumstance comes to an end, so does the friendship. I had a lot of this kind of ‘friendship’ while working in the theatre. Your blogposts are very inspirational for me. Thanks.

    • Thank you so much, Sal. You and I go way back. I think we may even beat out Denise and her best friend: 1965. I love you and I miss you. Thanks for reading my stuff.

  4. Reminds me of an intro to a story that Harlan Ellison (one of my favorite authors) once wrote. He found himself in a small southern jail at night after being arrested for protesting for civil rights back in the Sixties. Earlier that day he’d found out that a man he considered to be his best friend had been having an affair with his wife for some time. He asked his jailer if he could get something to eat because he hadn’t eaten all day. The jailer just laughed at him and told him it was too late – dinner had already been served. A black guy in the cell next to him offered him half his Payday bar, which was all he had to eat. He realized then just how fleeting friendships are; a man he’d never met was a better friend to him at that moment than someone he’d considered to be his best friend for years.

  5. Robin,
    I really enjoy your writing! All of this makes me think of our friendship, of course. We always seem to just pick up right where we left off. Love you girl! Come to Tulsa, come to Tulsa…we’d have such fun!!!!

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