that’s what friends are for

I judge my level of commitment to a friendship based upon what I would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Meaning if I really like you I will most likely drive fifty miles out of my way to save your ass from the zombie uprising, but if you happen to be one of the three people in this world whom I truly dislike then I’m going to most definitely accidentally push you into the waiting mouth of a zombie herd (while loudly reciting my detailed list of the many grievances I have against you, by the way).

Because friendships are complex. Certainly more complex than love. Love says, “I will do anything for you.”  Friendship says, “I will do most things for you…after I evaluate the situation.”  Which is exactly the point: love is the heart, friendship the brain.

Friendship is encouragement with caution. Faith with doubt. Laughter with tears. Friendship is being told those jeans make you look fat. It is giving, while expecting nothing in return…but secretly kind of hoping you at least get a free Starbucks out of it. Friendship requires work, but is not in itself work.

True friendship is rare. True friends, even rarer. Friends like Tom, who spent part of our eight hour car ride this past weekend teaching Chris the lyrics to a certain song so that when walking down the streets of Chicago the following day, Chris could spontaneously belt out, vibrato and all, “Chicago! Chicago! It’s a helluva town!” Friends like Jackie, who is such the perfect maternal foil to Chris’s paternal upbringing, it prompts Chris to say, “If I had a mom, I’d want her to be you.” And friends like Tyler, who Chris looks at as the big brother he so desperately wishes he had, the ultimate role model.

I hope one day Chris finds his Tom. Or his Jackie. Or his Tyler. I hope he finds those people he would rescue from the zombies and he learns to steer clear of those people he would accidentally push into their waiting mouths. I hope he finds that circle of friends who become his family.  That’s not too much to hope for, is it?

the week that was 2

The biggest news this week was that I finally told Chris where babies come from. Mostly. Since he is only eight years old and still refers to his penis as a weiner, I had trouble using technical terms like vagina and instead told Chris the baby came out of a birth hole. (To all the women reading this, I’m sorry. I panicked.)  At first Chris thought I was referring to the derrière, but when I explained that babies did not come out of a woman’s butt and that there was a second opening, he emitted a shriek of horror that pretty much guaranteed that if/when the day comes that he finally does see a vagina, he will either run screaming from the room or refer to it as a birth hole.

Also this week, Chris received his first report card of the year. Four B’s and six A’s, including an impossible 114% in Spanish. Which is funny since Chris cannot speak a word of Spanish and when telling me about the recently celebrated Dia de Los Muertos (or Day of the Dead), he told me it was the day “you put out cookies for all the dead kids so they could come back to life”.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not baking a bunch of cookies so that creepy ghost children can roam around my house like extras on the set of The Walking Dead.

The front steps of the church where I work is a popular meet-up spot for the city’s homeless. This past Tuesday we were hosting at least eight of Pittsburgh’s most notable grifters, including a couple making out in a manner that could only be described as voracious.  When I went out to clear the steps one of the guys told me to “fuck off”.  After I said that I would not fuck off, he muttered “faggot” under his breath. One-Legged Scooter Woman found this funny and laughed. I hate One-Legged Scooter Woman. Long after the others had left the steps she sat there glaring at me as if to say, “Go ahead. Tell the woman with one leg to move.”

She is part of a revolving cast of characters at the church that includes Crazy Black Lady with the Orange Shawl, Blanket Man, and Dirty Old White Woman with No Shoes. Crazy Black Lady with the Orange Shawl stops into my office several times a day to let me know that if I need anything she’s right out front on the steps. It’s a real comfort. Blanket Man is just that–a guy who haunts the streets of Pittsburgh wearing a blanket as if it were the finest of caftans.  I once saw him walking near my house (miles from the church) and I got so excited I took a picture of him from my moving car and then texted it to a friend.

Dirty Old White Woman with No Shoes is arguably the smartest of all the panhandlers. She straddles the property line between the church and the library, leaving each business to think that she’s the others problem. She is there every day, sitting on the pavement with no shoes, picking at her dirty feet with her hands, and then shoving those same hands into people’s faces as she asks for a quarter. The other day when I was leaving the church with Chris, she briefly stopped picking at her dirty feet to ask if Chris was my son. It was sweet and I would’ve been genuinely touched by the moment had I not been sent into a Purell panic when I noticed she had taken Chris’s hand asking him if he had a quarter.

Later today we are driving to Chicago for the weekend to see a friend in a play.  Eight hours in a minivan.  Myself, Todd, Chris, and our friends Tom and Jackie. I have known Tom since I first forced him to be my friend back in junior high school twenty-six years ago and Jackie since she played a cow (or was it a horse?) in a play my Dad wrote more than fifteen years ago. Together with our complex histories and unique personalities we make up the cast of a Horton Foote play…as written by Charles Busch.

Poor Chris. Like so many of our adventures this trip promises to keep him on the psychiatrist’s couch well into his first midlife crisis.