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Reflections on a Friend Moving Away.
Moving on to browner pastures.
It's 1am and she's nearly packed. Cheap plastic kitchen gadgets, a single china place setting from a grandmother who has passed on, and more DVDs than a small town Blockbuster Video are meticulously wrapped and stacked in moving boxes. She'll take the computer and the game consoles in the car with her because you just can't trust movers. I nod. I did the same when I moved from PA a decade ago.
We're on the floor, leaning against her bed, surrounded by boxes. It's one of the rare times that we are quiet. What can possibly be said? Her husband's job brought her to Arizona, and it's taking her back to Texas, like a confused lover, or a demented child moving game pieces across a map.
She's a good friend and a very kind person. She came from humble means and I am honestly delighted that her husband is doing so well in his new profession. I also recognize and respect that Texas is her home state, a part of her, and she has missed it terribly. After returning to Philly last year for the first time since 1997, I understand how our people and our culture, our words and our norms, are things that cannot be found elsewhere. I loathed getting on that plane and leaving the smells and the sounds and the tastes of my one true home. And when she spoke of Texas, and her eyes sparked, and her hands flew about with excitement as she described her town, I could imagine that she was experiencing the same thing.
The void that will exist in her absence is larger than the shape of our friendship. Through my time with Kim, I accepted one disturbing and relentless trend: true friends are hard to find. And harder to keep.
I have spent, as I said before, ten years here in Arizona. This is a transient state. The real estate boom promoted the concept of starter homes. The tax laws encouraged moving every two years, pocketing equity, and buying up. Neighbors don't stay. Myself, I have lived in four homes since my arrival.
Although the boom has passed, there is still no ability to make homes long term as many houses are being foreclosed upon; moving trucks tear through tumbleweeds that often result from neglected front yards. Houses on either side of me have been for sale for nearly two years. The two directly across the street were sold at auction last month. My children play with three kids from a single family that is moving in six weeks. They'll be losing their second set of friends in three months.
Even more than the geographical boundaries that create a neighborhood, there is a lack of desire to know the people who you live near. When I was growing up, you knew kids by their family names. That one's an Amato, and the two over there are Shields'. Watch out for the Walker girls and don't make the Fioka's mad because the four brothers will not let their little sister go unavenged. But I don't know anyone's last name these days. I don't even know the parents of the children who my boys bring home because they seem to have no need to meet the person who feeds, shelters, and entertains their brood.
My kids should be those Waterman boys, but they aren't because people don't care to know their names. That makes me sad.
To be honest, I don't really miss the people here whom I have called "friend" and who have moved on. They didn't seem to understand what friendship is, or what it could be. Perhaps I just attract people who are endless pits of need, who have nothing to give. Or maybe it's cultural. Where I grew up, we had so little, but gave so much. So much time, attention and support. Meals and hospitality flowed freely. Not so much here in Suburbia. They drive into the garages of their McMansions, not to be seen until the next day. Or, in the case of an ambulance, they can always be counted on come out to rubberneck.
And you know that the only time that you are on their minds is when you have a new car, or when there is a whiff of something to be gossiped about.
Kim and I came together through a mutual acquaintance who was just that toxic. I was so thankful for Kim, for someone who was finally honest, and kind and giving. She was generous and fun and other-centered. We have had a fantastic time learning about each other. I had no idea what I had been missing until I found it.
And now she's going. I think I am okay with it because my life experience has proven to me that people will continue to be brought into my life as long as my business with them is unfinished. I have peace about this.
Kim's crying. This year here has been hard on both of us and its ending. A part of me is just so happy that she will be with her people, and the other part is wondering what I will do now. I know that I won't settle for a façade of a friendship ever again. I have learned so much about myself and I deserve better than what I have been settling for.
She brings me home and her car pulls out of the driveway. She'll be leaving in nine hours and needs her sleep. I watch her car as it turns the corner on my nearly empty neighborhood and praise God for having brought her into my life. She reminded me of what I truly wanted, and, as I saw her ache for her beloved Texas, of who I was. And I am grateful.
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