I’ve never made friends easily. And I don’t want to. I draw a sharp line between friends and acquaintances, and I’m sparing with my confidences. I like my cadre of carefully pruned friendship bushes, each a collection that starts by knowing one person well and then meeting a select few of their friends. In fact, my algorithm for making friends has always been pretty close to the one Facebook uses.
An offshoot of this friend structure is that, after a series of moves and a job that’s done largely online, I’ve never met half the people I consider pretty good friends. We know each other’s avatars by sight, we send texts and messages all day, we check in on each other and every now and then a care package will arrive on someone’s doorstep, but we’ve never heard each other’s voices.
We know each other by the shape of our words.
And I’m good with that, for the most part. I’ve always been a better long-distance friend than an up-close one. For the first five years of our relationship, including two years of our marriage, The Boy and I lived thousands of miles apart.
The thing about living alone, and being far away, is that you have no-one to share your blanket fort. Nobody picks you up when you’re lying on the floor eating Doritos from the bag, you just have to embrace being floor Doritos for a while. And nobody tucks you in at night. The most important moment of every day became that before-bed call. Parents who travel know this one too: the tuck-in call. The moment where you wrap your loved one up and send them off to sleep without your arms around them. Where you have to weave a blanket of your words and hope it keeps them warm.
When I moved home, I reconnected with one of my oldest long-distance friends. We’ve seen each other through failed relationships, job hunts, parties where neither of us knew anyone else… the entire gamut of human mess that is a lived life. This is the guy who once convinced a certain seafood chain restaurant which shall remain unnamed to blend me a lobster milkshake when I was writing a character with pregnancy cravings. And though we’ve never lived fewer than 100 miles apart, we’ve seen each other about once a month since I was twenty.
Now, after all these years, D’s a guy who can recognize when I’m having a bad day from about two lines of instant message. He’s also got a knack for storytelling that can steal a bad day’s ice cream and send it home in tears. So after years of cheering me up with little stories during the workday while I tried not to cry at my desk, I suppose it was inevitable that he’d figure out that sometimes all you need is a good tuck-in to fix a bad day.
You do it like this:
If you’re having a bad day, this one’s for you. If you’re having a good day, it’s for you too. For pleasant dreams and restful sleep wherever you find it. For waking up refreshed, with the solution to that little problem that’s been stressing you out.
I tuck you in with cool sheets and warm blankets so you don’t wake up sweaty. I tuck you in with a hypoallergenic cat that sleeps just next to you but not on you.
I tuck you in with the smell of baking, with the sound of rain on the window while you’re safe and dry. With the color of leaves in fall and the opal bellies of bubbles in the summer air.
Sleep tight, wrapped in the texture of warm water as you test the bathtub, the rattle of a cat purring and the even breathing of a sleeping puppy. Dream the dreams of mountains, and of trees as they slow for winter. Dream dreams as small as frost-spires and as great as the stone cities in the plains beyond the forests where deer-paths wait for you to discover them.
Words are the arms we have to hold each other, and the hands we have to tuck each other in at night. Sleep well, friends, and wake better.