- Get flu shot
The winter season is beginning, and Maddie has verbally announced she will likely get her flu shot soon. I tell her that I will join. We can go tonight; she’ll pick me up. We arrive at the pharmacy and I have forgotten to have my insurance information on hand; Maddie stands while I sit in a chair trying to remember passwords and resetting them only to be met with last year’s outdated information. She waits, and I finally click through enough things on my phone to land on a file with my insurance info. Once again, she waits as I now fill out the forms she’s finished long ago.
We roll up our sleeves and then roll them back down within seconds. Our friendship is confirmed in the matching teal Band-Aids that brand us, and we linger in the aisles, tagging ourselves as toothbrushes and pointing out which vitamins we used to eat as children. Maddie gets a Diet Coke for the road, and as she drives us back to Providence, we deem this our new activity to regularly do together. Add it to the list: farm visit; long drive to some location; volunteer hour; tea time; flu shot.
- Work on AMST1600C paper
The first paper of the term is due tomorrow. It is already midnight. The assignment is confusing, Mai-Thanh and I need to do other work urgently, and we wish we didn’t have to write this. I write one sentence, then delete two. The data I need is Cambodia’s 2007 TIP Report, located in a 500-page file, and the first page is barely even loading. I wait. As I do, I turn to Mom’s all-purpose remedy for any cough and throat problem (and hopefully to stress and this lack of motivation too): tea with lemon and honey. I bring two mugs to the living room and hand one to Mai-Thanh who is under a blanket on the couch with her computer. We sip our teas as we continue to work, the only sound in between the moments of typing being sniffles and coughs. Tired, sick, and cold–school has really begun, it seems.
There is banana bread in the oven that fills the house with warm notes. I put it in half an hour ago when I realized this would be a long night: why not make it a bit sweeter? Tommy calls on the phone and asks what we are doing. We groan. “Working,” we say. He really should be working too; there’s a discussion post due by the morning. But there’s banana bread coming out of the oven soon, so come, do it here with us.
Five minutes later, Tommy meekly pushes open the door, pajamas on, holding his laptop in his arms.
It is nothing spectacular: we are three students up late on a school night. But now the banana bread is out. We gather on the floor, sitting around the living room coffee table where the loaf and a knife take center stage. No computers or books or tissues are in sight; instead, moments of friendship are revealed in a series of exchanges: of the first slice, of hazelnut spread, of honey, of napkins.
Mai-Thanh and I finish our papers and Tommy writes his discussion post, our tasks for the day done. Ask me, and I will tell you that on Tuesday night, we sat on the floor and shared banana bread.
- Lunch in the park
You suggest sandwiches. Let’s pick them up and go to the park to eat—it’s a late summer day in New York and people-watching in Washington Square Park entertains us for hours. We find a bench right on the perimeter of the fountain, the perfect spot for pointing out cute corgis frolicking in the summer sun or imagining backstories for the characters who filter in and out of our periphery.
What do we talk about? I can’t remember, but I’ve just checked and two hours have passed. We decide we should wander around for a bit. I learn how you like your coffee, and you begin to learn the subway lines (though you call it the metro). We grow lazy under the summer sun, and as it sets, we walk back home learning the slip of each other’s hand.
- Brown Market Shares Volunteer hour
If you walk past the potatoes, rhubarb, nectarines, and bread, you’ll see a table in the back left, next to the swinging doors of the kitchen: cheese, eggs, and Maddie. This is our station, the only two-person one (or so we’ve determined it to be. It actually can very feasibly be done by a single person, but it is eggs and dairy and sometimes even meat. So, like we said in our joint application, the station is a two-person job and we’re perfect for it). Maddie arrives early to secure our spots, and when I arrive, I walk straight to the back, give her a hug, fetch dozens of eggs to restock our table, and pour us each a tea.
The next hour is mostly uninterrupted, spent unpacking and investigating life sitting side-by-side at a folding table. Occasionally, we’ll need to pause to tell people that Maddie will check you off and I’ll be back with your milk! We say about 10 words during that hour outside the two of us, and it is always 10 too many.
Thursdays 3-4 p.m. is simple, easy, sometimes boring, always lovely.
- Tomorrow: Bank, pick up desk, UPS—all with Thanh
I can’t wait.
I find myself thinking about the moments I’ve talked about above and wonder why I hold onto them so tightly. When you pointed out the four boys side-by-side, eating half watermelons with spoons, why did my heart almost burst? Was it the delight of the scene itself, or was it the feeling that you, charmingly and unexpectedly, knew the joys of my own heart?
I believe I am good at being alone. My sister and I dedicated ourselves early to instruments, and practicing was always a solitary activity. The greater the number of hours in the room, door closed, focused and practicing, the better the violinist I would be and the better cellist she would too. I learned that play dates were never to be spontaneous, that Saturdays meant music school day, and if time could be spared (it never could), it should be spent practicing.
Eventually, Holly would go to college, Mom would return to work, and Dad to school. I loved music, so I kept playing the violin—which meant I should keep practicing, and which meant I should be home, alone, honing my skill. After school, I’d go to my bedroom and open my case to practice. Then, until Mom and Dad returned from work late, I’d make food, and dance, and practice, and nap, and push myself around the room on a swivel chair. I got good at being alone. I got used to it. Because of this, I believed that when I was with others, it had to be eventful. Loud, exciting, robustly planned with activities—this is how friendships grew and thrived.
But if that is true, why does my heart wince whenever I realize I won’t be repeatedly opening and closing a cooler of cheese with Maddie forever? I want her to promise me she won’t ever get a flu shot without me, and I want Tommy to always be barging into my home when the banana bread will be out in five.
Something keeps pulling me back to these moments when nothing much happens. Even as I write this, I am in my living room surrounded by four friends whose friendships were all formed individually and separately. The house is still; everyone is silently doing their own work. I can hear the kettle’s growing boil in the kitchen. There is music playing from the speaker, but the hum of the dishwasher fades it into the background. And this is what I find myself missing already. Perhaps it is that intimacy flourishes in the gentlest of spaces, in the most ordinary of moments, when a single heartbeat can expand and deepen, as if to extend a hand and ask to dance.