I have a friend Matt who is both younger and smarter than me. We met in high school. We weren’t supposed to be friends. I was an ambitious future East Coaster and Matt liked to write plays. I believed in the promise of a better life in Cambridge or New Haven. Matt believed in the power of his words. The only thing we shared was a love of debate. At 16, in an inarticulate suburb of Chicago, that was reason enough to become friends.
It isn’t easy to be friends with Matt. Mainly because if you really want to get a hold of him there is no reason to call. He is someone who has managed to live his entire life without picking up the phone. So I’ve recognized that if there’s anything important to discuss with him, its best done in person. He’s the oldest young person that I know.
I often worry that I am a bad friend to Matt. Bad because once when I visited him, I told him that he needed to grow up and realize that life is about money and staying one step ahead of your peers. Matt was directing plays in North Carolina and taking care of prop pigeons on the side. I was drowning in the weight of my ego in Boston, anchored to the idea of corporate success.
Sometimes I can be a good friend to Matt. Like when he dated the vessel of a girl which contained a body but not a soul. He relied on me for direct communication with her after the break up. When delivering painful feedback, it’s best to send in a heartless East Coast representative.
Matt and I spend the majority of our time together arguing. We always argue about the same thing. I am cynical about everything. He believes in the power of man. When I visit Matt I show him the scars on my heart and ask him to examine them. I want him to see what the world has done. I want him to show him evidence that the game of thinking positively is a sham. The problem is that when you’re around Matt the scars seem shallower, the wounds start to heal over and your evidence disappears.
It seems profoundly simple to say that I have someone in my life who believes in me. And it seems crazy to suggest that having him in my life helps me become better at who I am. But that’s the thing about friendships. They’re rarely measured by phone calls or birthdays. But by the intent of the person sitting across from you when you’re there.