Katie and I met at the cash wrap of Barnes and Noble #2216 somewhere between fucking up and getting shit together. She had a septum ring, black box-dye on her hair, and a star tattooed on each arm.
Silence filled the first two hours of our shift. In later years, she’d tell me that she thought I was a “real Asian”, and wasn’t sure if I spoke English. Following a customer tantrum, I rolled my eyes and sighed, “God I fucking hate people.” The connection was undeniable.
We took drives to the Long Beach boardwalk, blasting the best of 90’s pop with the windows down. Most nights we wound up in my basement, talking over Disney movies and microwave popcorn. We shared secrets and made plans.
I can’t remember the last time I saw Katie. If I had to guess, it was probably about five or six years ago. Most of my friendships operate this way.
I tell myself all sorts of things – it’s work, it’s school…we’re going in different directions. But I know the reason.
As an adult, making friends is a nightmare. College is over. Work sucks. Your significant other’s friends are just fucking weird. Most people in a bar are looking to get laid, and the people in coffee shops are not interested in anything that doesn’t involve tall, grande, and venti.
I came to terms with the fact that this was how things were. I had my parents. I had my boyfriend. I had my writing. I had to be okay with that.
Grad school was very romantic in my mind. After class, I imagined we’d find our way from desks to barstools, getting into epic arguments over David Foster Wallace, Lydia Davis, and William Faulkner over PBR and day-old pretzels. I fantasized about sparring over commas, word choice, and syntax.
Eight weeks into my MFA, I can tell you the only thing you want to hit after class is your bed. My hopes and dreams of finding my people seemed to be just that…until Intro.
I’d been at the office since 7am, and was not looking forward to two and a half hours of class. As we went around the room introducing ourselves to yet another guest speaker, I let out a lengthy sigh, “Oh. My. God.”
“Ugh,” said a voice next to me, “I know.”
I turned to my right to see M. I’d seen her at admitted students day. We’d talked about applications, fears, what we were going to order from the pirx fix menu. I remember thinking she seemed nice, and now here she was. I smiled at her and made a smart ass comment. She laughed.
Having lunch with the girls was a lot like a first date. I changed outfits four times – I didn’t want them to know I was trying. I made sure to go to the ATM so I’d have cash in case things got weird or awkward. I put notecards with conversation topics in my bad in the event of an awkward silence. But I needed none of these things.
We sat in Francesca’s for two hours – laughing at each other’s jokes, wondering about the future, and talking about writing.
Afterwards, I wanted to explode. I wanted to scream from the rooftops – for I had finally found my people. Do I call them? Should I text them? Is it too soon to send friend requests?
Making friends as an adult is very much like dating. Even as I sit here writing this, I wonder if the friendships I’ve made in the past four weeks can go the distance. I think about how much I finally feel like I know what it means to belong. I’ve found my community. I’ve found my people. I’ve found I can be myself.
I don’t know what will happen next semester. I don’t know what will happen in five or six years. All I know is that Thursday is the best day of my week.