5/3: dinner with Yena

It’s been kind of a crazy couple days at work! Today was the peak of it, and I left my weary desk at 6 to head over and meet Yener for din at Eden Center. The fave place was closed for renovations (!! but you’re perfect as you are!!) so we popped into one of the other many restos, hoping for the best.

[mental notes] The restaurant is all red on the inside and apparently they only take cash!

On a whim, I ordered hu tieu bo kho — most excellent — like a thick beef stew, with carrots, other stewy things, rice noodles. Comfort food at its Vietnamese best.

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I confessed to Yena that I’d been feeling sad and alone and friendless, which uh, awkward, because she is my friend. But she got it. Gets it. Said she feels it, too. I’m discovering, honestly, that more people than not are suffering in this world, one way or another — and many post-grad peeps in this area are feeling the same chokey loneliness that I do. I mean, DANG, WashPost. Way to put my feelings to words. Which is comforting. But also not. For the same reason.

It’s comforting because we’re sort of all in this together…must mean it’s at least a little bit systemic…but also not at all comforting cause…what if it’s SYSTEMIC and it’s bigger than all of us?! Insurmountable?!

But I guess there’s power in numbers.

I told her that I’m grateful for our friendship, and I’ve realized that it’s because it reminds me of my former self with my former-self definitions of friendship — quality over quantity, ALL the way.

Throughout the UVA years, Yena and I saw each other with an impressively regular infrequency — once a quarter, tops. That is four times a year, MAYBE. Which, as a decimal of the fraction of days in a year: 0.0109589041.

At first, honestly, I was probably skeptical of our piddling college friendship, because those meet ups seemed like such one-off events and, as I always say, it’s not a tradition until it’s happened at least three times.

But she’s kept me around…all these years (and how many things can I really say that phrase, “all these years,” about? What a luxury). And now she’s literally one of my oldest friends. A HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND. This is AMAZING and precious.

Even though we only checked in every quarter or so…we’ve grown up a lot together. Been nearby one another through a lot of changes and continuities. We used to talk about how Yena would probably be the LAST to start dating! And here she is now, 6?! 7?! years old in a relationship that started before any of the rest of us. Just lil details of a life before college, before realizations, before…adulthood.

And we agreed that our times together are precious for their high-quality nature (if we do say so ourselves). Whether we’re discussing the intricate details of the human conditions or she’s catching me up on youtube videos I need in my life (I think this is her special skill), we always have awesome, awesome conversations that make me excited and feel connected to her. And I love her for that.

Over our dinner plates, we lamented the confusing nature of the Circles — Levels — of friendships we have and do not have. And I wanted to reach over, hold her little hand, and tell her that she could call on me when she was in need of the kind of inner-circle conversations we all need sometimes, but…something made me pause, and that pause made me old. I didn’t want to overpromise and underdeliver. The realities of life now are: traffic, work, social obligations, wedding planning (!!), church events, learning things like cooking. All of these take time and effort, and I didn’t want to make a promise to be there and maybe end up disappointing her.

BUT THAT IS TRAGIQUE. And untrue! If she called, I would be there. In this moment, I am so sure of this — why was I so full of uncertainty during dinner?

And then, I remember that there are people with real problems — people whose kids are mysteriously sick, people who are dying from cancer, people who are walking forward after the death of a parent. And this makes hang my head in shame for all my recent navel-gazing, but the shamey head-hanging means I’m only looking downward all the more, I know. So there’s a balance to remember there.

P.S. I’ve been reading and writing and loving these late-night think sessions… But it’s also so, so not sustainable, and I know this is true.

But for now, I am riding high on the wave of Wheat Thin energy and late-night text conversations to keep me going.