When I got to college, I was the most extroverted I have ever been before or since. I talked to everyone, and I mean everyone. I made friends with every person I met. I had no qualms about starting up conversations with people I didn’t know, and I felt absolutely no intimidation about chattering to anyone, anytime. I have no idea what THAT was all about, or where it went (actually I do know where it went, but that’s a story for another day), but I look upon that version of myself with a lot of fondness. Openhearted to a fault, that girl was, and it eventually got her into a world of heartache in some situations. Come to think of it, there is still a part of me to this day that struggles with the balance between openheartedness and the heartache that can bring (also a topic for another day). The quantity of my words and the aggressive friendliness that I had may be tempered a lot now that I am longer in the tooth, but the thing that I loved so much about who I was at that time was the unselfconscious need to connect with people. It was so naked, like, soul-wise. In talking to all of those people, I was merely wanting to really see them and for them to see me. It’s almost painfully uncynical, when I really think about it. What a little baby bird I was, flying around chirping to people, expecting them to chirp back.
This is the same year of my life that I decided, one night, to barge in to an acquaintance’s dorm room, where a girl that I thought was nice and funny and cool was sitting in her bed reading a book, and ask to sit down. She said yes, and I sat right on her bed with her and told her all the stuff I had been thinking about lately. It wasn’t dramatic stuff, but I just wasn’t hiding from her, which is what people do mostly, right? Chirp chirp! I was saying to her. This chitter chatter is actually my heart. This is me. Can you see me? This girl, who was quieter than me, listened to all of my thoughts, and to my surprise, stepped right up to that and told me all of hers. Here is a thing that has always been true for me: if you act unguarded and kind to me, I will fall in love with you straight away. This is a thing all of my loves have in common. I cannot resist it. If you are out there and you know I love you, friends, there are many reasons why, but unguarded and kind is the real, true reason at the heart of it all. I chirped, and you chirped back.
For the next few years of our lives, this girl (you all know her as Palindrome) and I talked. A lot. We talked and walked, we stayed up late talking, we could not shut up. Neither of us stayed at that college for long, and when we moved away from each other I remember talking on the phone for hours at a time. I remember us writing letters to each other, with stories and funny drawings. I still have them. I remember one time she came to visit me when I was at my parents’ house for the weekend and we talked in such a non-stop diaherria of the mouth sort of way from the beginning of the visit to the end, that after she left my mom just looked at me with a sort of awe and said “do you two EVER run out of things to say to each other?” And I had to be like: nope. Not really.
The thing about my friendship with Palindrome though, was not the quantity of words we said to each other. It was the quality. We were keeping it so real. Not that we were having heavy, deep talks all the time. But we were talking about shit that really mattered to us. It could be silly stuff, funny stuff, hard stuff. But it was unfiltered and we just trusted each other to hear it. Even now, years later, though Palindrome and I don’t talk as often, when we do talk, I still feel that bond between us. We listen to each other. It’s gold, you guys.
It is this quality of talking with people that I have been thinking about today. I still have that sort of thing in my life, thank goodness, because I am drawn to it like a heat seeking missile. If someone says something to me that feels lacking in artifice, trusting that I will listen to it, it’s like something within me lights up. Chirp, chirp. I see you. I cannot think of something that I love more than that.
I went on a short little trip on a ferry from Seattle into Puget Sound the other night with two of my pals. Between the car ride to where we were going and back plus the ferry ride itself, we had a few hours together with nothing to do but talk, and talk we did. It was a fun, airy sort of time, but I could have listened to those ladies talk all day long. Good conversation with sincere people. Best, best, best.
All of this is to tell you about a podcast called Death, Sex, and Money. It’s your basic NPR, Fresh Air style interview show, but the host has her guests talk about things that fall outside of polite conversation (hence the name of the podcast). People talk honestly about their relationships, their families, their joys, their fears. It’s like having a friendly acquaintance barge into your dorm room and tell you her business.