The Stars Aligned
A friend is a present you give yourself.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
Earlier I had said that I would write about the friends in Montreal that have made my life fuller. I digressed. I steered off course, but stories are like that, aren’t they? You start down one path and the story takes you to another, eventually leading you in a completely different direction and then you sit there and ask, “What was I saying? Oh yeah……”
When you live in the city of Montreal, and gauge the distance and time by which metro line to take, it seems like a huge ordeal when a car is required to get to any other part of the island, and even a bigger deal when you have to coordinate a ride with someone else. Add winter conditions and these are the makings of some serious excuses to not venture out! Going to a Christmas party that required some planning, knowledge that the house would be filled with kids (not really my forte), falling snow and putting my trust in a young Venezuelan driver (his first Canadian winter) made the meeting of my friend France a real miracle. The stars aligned that night.
I’m a shy person if I’m in a room full of people I don’t know. I’m not a mingler, I don’t work the room. I kind of stand close to Juan and ease drop on his conversation or I’m in the kitchen trying to help out the hostess. This is my coping mechanism, you know, so I don’t feel too much like a wallflower. This particular night’s conversation was boring. The party was taking place at one of Juan’s professor’s house and the topic had something to do with Wireless Networking. If you’re a geek, it probably would have been stimulating, but computer speak, mixed in with the latest technologies and lingo, plus engineering was more than enough to put me into a coma. No matter how much I try (which, to be honest, I don’t) this kind of stuff just doesn’t hold my interest. It’s like a really complicated math class being taught in Mandarin. Needless to say, I left the room yawning, searching for a drink.
Drink in hand, I found a dimly lit room that called my name. No screaming children in sight, I entered the sacred space. France was escaping too. She looked up and said something along the lines of, “I’m not really into this tonight.” I love this kind of honesty. I think we read each other’s plight, boredom. We quickly discovered we had a lot in common: age, interests, traveling, etc. Her husband was one of the “geeks”, another of Juan’s professors and a fellow Latino. Once you say the words “I have a Latino husband/boyfriend”, the unspoken “uh-huhs” and “I totally know what you mean” and “his family” are written all over your faces, there is an underlying universal acknowledgment of understanding and bonding. Strange, isn’t?
Our friendship was slow to grow, like ice thawing in the spring. The winter was definitely a factor in this, plus she and her husband live in the burbs. Again, it was about logistics. Take a bus, a metro and then a train. Instead of calling it laziness, I like to think that I economize my energy in winter. Anyway, we didn’t meet again until early summer. And after a few BBQs I knew that we’d be friends for a long time.
France is easy to talk to, we share the same sense of pragmatism, we’re both honest people that don’t put up with a lot of shit, we despise winter, we had very parallel lives in terms of marriage and divorce, plus we both LOVE chocolate. But I identified with her in a way that I didn’t expect. To be honest, I had never given it any real thought prior to knowing her. As funny as this is going to sound, it really means something to me. She’s Canadian. Now I know some of you are probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?” but there’s something comforting in talking about T.V shows, food, cartoons, music, and all things Canadian with someone who truly get’s it.
Besides all of these things, France is a friend’s friend. If she knows I’m down, there’s always a comforting word. She really listens, she’s compassionate, sympathetic, and as my mother would say, “She’s the kind of person that would give you the shirt of her back”. She’s fun to be around, she has a great laugh and is just as quick witted as I am. She plays a mean game of crib and totally gloats if she wins, which, sadly, is most of the time.
Someone once told me that we see ourselves in the people we surround ourselves with. I see myself reflected in her. France is sensitive, but more importantly she tries to do all that she can with the best of intentions. And if what Robert Louis Stevenson is true, then I gave myself a very precious gift. I will miss her.