Storytime: The Lady in the Market

Please enjoy this post where I tell you a story about an event from my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Today’s story: Trying to make friends as an adult.

When I was growing up, my mother worried mercilessly that I wouldn’t be able to make friends. This turned out to be an unfounded belief and probably just projection on her end since making friends had never seemed to present a problem for me. No matter how many times I was uprooted or disturbed, friendship came shockingly easy. Somehow, I found, there are always people ready to put up with me running my mouth. Always someone willing to hang out and do whatever strange thing I was interested in. Surprisingly, some of them kept returning to me, trading their company for mine.

But Seattle was testing my patience.

I moved to Seattle in the grey months 4 years prior to this moment and I could count the local friends I’ve made on one hand. I found perplexingly myself lonely and alone in a city twice the size of the city I left. It seemed that at 25 I could only make acquaintances. I could meet people who talked to me once and never again. I could spend hours talking with them only to have to spend months starring at their picture on Facebook wondering why they didn’t reply to texts and messages. Wondering why an hour long coffee date was too much time for anyone to spend with me. Wondering what was wrong with me. If I’ve become too much or too little. If I’d forgotten how to be a friend or just how to make a friend.

Things had been difficult friend-wise until I join an online collective of women and it filtered down to a collective of local women who seemed to want to know me. I was afraid of them and their cool, beautiful faces but I wanted to go to a craft fair and I assume out of a dozen women someone will want that too.

They did. At the last moment though everyone cancels but this lady. No one has met this lady yet and she says very little in the group so she is a mystery and a question mark but it’s never stopped me before and it won’t stop me now.

I love craft fairs and this one is themed for the holiday season. It’s warm and joyous. There is singing and candles in the lobby. There is the wafting smell of cinnamon and pine from every direction. It feels so incongruous to the dread that comes with meeting someone you have never met. Someone whose face is a puzzle that you only have a few pieces of. Standing in the lobby trying to absorb the holiday cheer works and in just a few minutes she’s there and solid. She’s soft and her face goes fuzzy when she smiles. She has a quiet voice and an easy laugh. She wrings at her hands nervously when she talks and pushes her thick coat around on her arms for something to cling to but it feels comforting as I push my own nerves down.

I hope we will be friends.

We spend three hours at the fair. I watch her pick up and shift things in her hands. I try to remember each item she likes. Coconut and lime. Anything in pink. She thinks that diamonds are overrated. She doesn’t like throw pillows. “Too formal, what are you supposed to do with them?”. She seems slow and easy. She buys a hat at one stand and a bag of pretzel mix at another. She picks up business cards for three different soap stalls, but only the ones with compressed bath bombs. She picks up each of the bath bombs, smelling it and turning it in her hand like a trophy but then carefully places them back in their baskets without purchase. I make a note to buy some for her if we become friends. It seems like she likes them but I’m worried she thinks bath bombs are too good for her. Too formal. What would she do with it?

The conversation is all surface. It’s bland and momentary. Do you like this bag? Aren’t these colors great together? I saw these at the Fremont market last year. I like chocolate. Oh? You like chocolate too!

As if it’s a revelation to meet another human.

Reaching the end of the displays and stalls she tells me she knows a great place to get a drink and I think this is where the real friendship kicks in. This is where she’ll lean over and spill all her wonderful secrets and stories to me. She leads me across the street to a bar called the Elephant and Crown, a mock British bar. I’ve been there a few times and it does not decidedly have “good drinks” but it has drinks and that counts for something. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and raining in December in Seattle and so it’s her and I and two tables of rained out tourists in a bar set to hold 200. The waiter does not look pleased when we both order a single cider but he brings them out moments later anyway.

That is when the magic happens. She does tell me a story. Then she tells me a second one. After that she leans over the table when she tells me about her husband and her kids and her porch that overlooks a lake. I have no real reference so picture it like my friend Ross’ apartment. His deck hanging over a forest, overlooking a lake. I wonder if she lives near him. Maybe in the same neighborhood or even on the same street. She tells me about her three kids and her troubles and her beat up car and her mom. I think she’s about to ask me about myself but instead she takes the liberty of ordering a cocktail.

The cocktail is for me.

When she orders me a third drink I wonder if she knows I walked here so there’s no need for us to talk in this bar forever since I don’t have to sober up to go home. She can’t know that because she hasn’t asked. So instead I tell her. She laughs and apologizes that she didn’t think about it. She nurses her second cider while I gulp down my third drink, this time a fancy version of a gin and tonic. She asks the waiter for another cocktail and gives it to me. I’m not sure what is happening.

She tells me about working in a hospital. She tells me about how she feels when she sees people she can’t help. She tells me about dead bodies. She talks about blood and mucus and human fluids and looking inside of someone at something that shouldn’t be there. She asks me if she thinks her kids should get a small swimming pool in the summer or if that’ll spoil them. It’s almost three hours of talking when she suddenly seems to realize the time and she catches the waiter, pays the entire tab herself without asking me and then collects her things, thanks me, and leaves.

I walk home tipsy assuming that things will sort themselves out once the alcohol clears out of my system. I figure I’m too tipsy to understand what happened but maybe she just needed a friend to vent to and I was closest but next time it’ll be an even exchange of stories and ideas. I sit on the couch, drinking water to sober up, with my phone and thank her via Messenger and try to friend her.

She never replies to my friend request, she never RSVPs for another event, and no one else ever meets her. I spend the entire month after that I worrying I can’t even make acquaintances anymore.

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