It was the Sunday night before Labor Day, and I had unexpectedly been asked to work the closing shift at the bar. With the three day weekend I could sleep in the following day, so I agreed. The night started out slow. Jerry sat at one end of the bar and a few stragglers wandered in and out, but until about 8 o'clock business was only steady.
Around that time, my friends started to trickle in. First Angie, then T.J., Troy, Lindsey, Blake, Shane and Chris.
"What are you smiling about?" someone asked.
"I'm just so happy to have my friends here."
One day, you might wake up and find that everything has changed. Your son is dead, and you're divorced, and you're re-building your life after it was blown apart shattered. The friends who stood at your side on your wedding day are more like acquaintances now, not because of any sort of falling out, but simply because you're different people who live different lives - And because they aren't sure how to interact with you now that you've seen hell.
But there are a handful of friends who have walked with you through it all. A couple of them, like Angie and T.J., were there when you did the unthinkable and buried your child. A couple of them, like Troy and Shane, met you out for a drink when you just needed to escape. They're the friends who knew they couldn't say anything to fix all that was wrong, but they stood there, holding you up when you wanted to fall.
And then there are the friends who chose to become your friends, even when you were at your worst. Elise, who I'd known for years, but suddenly became one of the first people to whom I spilled the news of Gabriel's diagnosis. Our friendship started when I thought the world was ending. Or Lindsey, the friend who listens when I need her, but with whom I can sit in comfortable silence. She's the friend that just shows up with an orchid on Gabriel's first birthday and makes blueberry lemon cupcakes on his second birthday and meets me for a drink and then comes out to a charity run at 7 on a Saturday on his third birthday. Or Blake, who used to work with Ben; who had a front row seat as my marriage fell apart; who I got to keep in the divorce.
My life as I knew it disintegrated, but I was built back up again by people who make me better by showing me the kind of person I want to be. They recognize my strengths. They teach me how to improve where I am weak. They do it all just by being there. It feels weird at the age of almost-33 to say that I've got "new" best friends. Best friends seem like something for kids. They've become known to me simply as "the homies," and they're the best friends I've ever had.
They screened Marcos when he and I started dating. He had to pass the homie test, and now he's been incorporated. And when we announced that we were expecting our baby, we were greeted with sincere joy.
Friendships made as an adult require a lot more concentrated effort. We're busy, and our lives are filled with major changes, and we don't see each other every day the way we might have as schoolchildren. We're establishing careers, romantic relationships, families, homeownership - Grown up stuff. Sometimes, friendship means meeting at Eureka Burger on a Thursday night, and bringing your baby, and knowing you've only got a small window before you've got to get back home, but knowing the friends you will see are worth it. With Marcos at my side, Eden in my lap, Elise, Lindsey, and later Tori sitting across from me, I knew my night would be stretched thin. But I also know that no matter how busy life gets or how tired I am I never regret the time I spend just rollin' with my homies.