Friendly Fire Always Surprises Me

I am writing this post from a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Every time I set out on another tennis adventure, I’m always helped and sustained by friends. Some of them I have known for years, others are kindred spirits who travel with me for a brief spell; our lives intersect and we serve to champion or provide comfort at dangerous crossroads.

I accepted the invitation of an old friend to explore making a European city my home. She was struggling to find a sense of home and I was on the lookout for a new one. Maybe we could help each other. Upon my arrival, it was clear to me why my friend had not fully found her place; she was the walking wounded, an emotional live wire. I, on the hand, might not have a physical home but you would never declare me as anything but solid and grounded. I’m of the camp: never let them see you sweat. We were not well-matched. Within days, we were at odds and today, I simply packed up my bags and left. In the rain, mind you!

I suspect if you asked both of us what happened, we’d each paint a pretty compelling portrait of our respective slights. There were technological glitches (a non-working cellphone); mean words exchanged and wounded feelings on both sides. Yet, I can’t help seeing the whole mess as the danger of friendly fire. This week I was profoundly understood by a stranger, while a friend of over ten years appeared completely clueless. How does this happen?  I want to chalk this sad episode up to poorly communicated expectations and put it behind me. Yet, I know I’ll never forget setting out in the rain, in a country whose tongue I do not speak, from the home of a friend who proclaimed to love me.

It can be so difficult for those closest to us to see the things we dream of and want as simply ours rather than a source of rejection of the things they hold dear. I can see how it happens. We find and become friends with others out of shared values. Our histories are stories we tell each other, which draws us even closer together. But this time, the old histories were not enough. In fact, they became a burden, preventing us from forming new memories with the persons we are today. I wasn’t seen and I wasn’t allowed to me myself. Maybe I was guilty of failing to see how Europe and life apart had transformed my friend into a new person I needed to get to know all over again. The choices we made today made these discoveries unlikely.

I don’t know what the future holds for the friendship. Maybe we’ll settle back into our long distance exchanges or we’ll find that we no longer speak each other’s language.

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