Yes, okay—Jess is real. She actually does live around the corner from me. From time to time, we run into each other and, every time, we immediately fall into relaxed and natural and authentic communication. When we have to part ways, we always make promises to get together “properly”, to have tea or lunch or a walk. But we never do. Life gets in the way, I guess, of a real, manifest relationship.
I’ve had a handful of these imaginary friendships throughout my life. People who arrive out of the blue and immediately connect like soul mates or soul sisters—I am certain these are the “real deals”, the keepers, the friends for life—but then they recede into the imaginary miasma, traces of their amazingness still sitting on my tongue. Not keepers in the end, but wonderful portraits of potential.
So what happens? Yes, life gets in the way. There’s also the problem—for me as a social creature in my middle age—that there aren’t enough hours (even minutes) in the days for the wonderful, enduring friendships I already have. There’s always the potential for subtle pervasions of guilt to bubble up inside me about the time I’m not spending nurturing this old friendship or that new one. The other reality is that friendship really needs two people to nurture it: two people to commit to that coffee or lunch or walk and then see it through. And then the coffee/walk/lunch after that and the one after that and so on until the rhythm has been established and those “breaks for real life” don’t really interfere with your connections when you see each other.
But still it’s interesting, isn’t it?—these imaginary friendships and the coulda/wouldas that go with them. I do sometimes picture that coffee-date or that extended weekend at a cottage, just bonding and reveling in this person’s loveliness. But that’s as far as it goes, it seems.
So many alternate universes circling around me with relationships and experiences I just can’t seem to pack into this particular sphere.
I still believe every single time Jess and I see each other that one day, one surprising afternoon, we will follow through with our imaginary plans and take that lunch, and a beautiful thing will find its footing. Maybe imaginary friendships, or snatched moments, or the beauty of possibility are still better than no friendship at all.
Deb: Barbara, I was just thinking that your having written this blog-post may be just the inspiration you need to turn your imaginary friend into a fully fleshed-out relationship. The timing of this is so interesting for me. I had a lovely surprising encounter last week at the place where I get my nails done. I love, as you know, to strike up conversations with strangers. This gal and I got to chatting and, honest to Pete, we started connecting and bonding and relating. It was so sweet and unexpected. It was so real and substantial. When she was getting up to leave she looked at me with tears brimming in her eyes and said, “I am so glad I met you today,” and I told her that I felt the same way and that I thought there was a reason for it. She said, “I’m sorry but I hope you don’t mind if I hug you and kiss your cheek,” and she did and I hugged her back and it was actually tough to say goodbye to her. I said something like, “I know we will meet again and I hope we do.” But why didn’t we exchange numbers, email, anything? Is it because neither of us wanted to be presumptuous? Is it because there were other people around us and we didn’t want to look foolish? I don’t know the answer, but I do hope I meet her again and, if I do, I am going to take it as a sign.