I don’t make friends easily. I never have. I’m great at meeting people. I can make conversation with anyone. I know everybody. Everybody knows me. But I don’t make friends easily.
When I was a little thing, about nine years old, I loved to roller skate. I can’t recall how I learned or why I loved it, but I did. I went to the roller skating ring on Saturdays. Lots of kids in my town did. I knew almost all of them. I would skate round and round and round the rink, for two hours, from noon to two o’clock, in and out and around the other kids, and no one ever said a word to me. And I never spoke to them. During couples skate, I went to the snack bar and got a Dr. Pepper and a Snickers. During the races, I went to the bathroom.
At 2:00pm, my daddy would pick me up. He would ask me if I had fun and how things had gone and I would tell him all about the goings on, who skated with who and who was fighting and how we all laughed and laughed, me and my friends. At dinner, I would repeat the stories to Momma. And Monday, I would go to school and then it would be Saturday and the cycle would go on and on.
I didn’t have enough experience then to know a lot of those kids were just as lonely as I was. There are few people in the world who don’t go through at least one phase of life feeling like the weird one. It happens to everyone.
Making friends is difficult. But I never give up trying. Having friends is as close as I’ll ever get to knowing what it is like to be married. At forty-six years of age, introducing someone as my friend is me saying to the world ‘I PICK THIS PERSON’ and them saying ‘ME TOO’. It is a courageous act, in a grown-up world packed full of years of experience and regret and bad decisions and been done wrong to take a step forward and declare that someone is your person.
One of the great things about getting this old and living my whole life in hometown is coming back around to some of those kids that used to circle the skating rink with me. All that weirdness, all that fragility and ego and shit that went down, it is all something we can laugh about now. It is kind of beautiful, seeing the little kid under all that grown-up, recognizing who they are.
Make friends. Keep the old ones. Circle back around to the ones you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Make new ones. Whenever you can, gather them all together in one place. It will do wonders for your soul.
It’s all skate now, Everybody on the floor.