Since I was diagnosed with RRMS — relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis — my connections have dwindled. I've blocked people on Facebook, chosen who to see and who not to, been let down more than I'd like. My circle's got smaller, and my heart's reluctant to let anyone in.
It would be unscientific to say there's a direct correlation between nerve damage and trust, but I have no time for unreliable people and half-measures. My skin tingles like an army of people live underneath it, clawing at the inside, making invisible pathways, needles and pins that distract me. I want someone to look me in the eye, let me have their attention entirely.
My best friend was not my best friend before I found out what's wrong with me, but he knows what to say in every situation. We hadn't spoken since 2008, five years prior to my diagnosis, but he'd played on my brain like an anxiety puzzle: twisty, unsolvable and impossible to let go.
I added him on Facebook 10 days after my diagnosis, thinking he'd be the epitome of unreliable, because people don't change (or so I've been generically told by movies). I wanted a perfectly packaged resolution, which I know is not a thing, but I wanted it — to understand what had gone wrong, for him to know I didn't hold a grudge.
God knows why exactly this was important. Priorities are constantly evolving.
This friend defied my expectations and everyone else's. Not only was he there every time I called, he understood better than anybody what it was like to find out you weren't who you thought you should be, that your body might betray you in a moment, and permanently. He knows what it's like to reach a life juncture and not be what everyone else expects. He knows what it is to start again. He was nonjudgmental, the completest of listeners, and a total laughter generator, even in the lowest moments (post-treatment or MRI, on days when there was no forward).
There's nothing he won't do. Not that he's perfect. Perfect is a high-school fallacy I unlearned after Scott and Bobby and Ben. But there are no illusions left, no worse thing one of us can do. And in spite of everything, he understands my illness without having it himself. And if someone lifts your life like caffeine, that's difficult to dismiss.
And trust me — I've spent months feeling bad about the list of things which happened since the diagnosis hit. An excuse would be that my brain's missing bits. Regardless of this, I'm doing what's right for me. And that's the biggest lesson we can all learn, isn't it? To do what feels right in any situation without coercion by so-called friends or out-of-loop family members.
And he is the best — the person who makes better out of trash bags, the only one I can communicate with in memes or Gilmore Girls quotes only, and still understand, which is the mark of true post-millennial friendship, isn't it? If I ever need a pep talk, he'll have one prepared to pocket pull. He's the greatest improviser.
This friend, whom I love like coffee shots and a Netflix binge-watch, has made me muscular — which is to say he's consistently built me up. And there's no more I can ask for.
Anything I lost to MS, he's given back, replaced with time and words, reassurance and moving gifs. He's expandable foam — or his voice is, rectifying walls once thought irreparable. And I'll never stop being grateful we met and re-met and keep on meeting.