I met Annie at Coffee Talk, my favorite local coffee shop that plays my 90s high school play list all day long.
Coffee Talk is my favorite place to get out of my house during the week to get shit done.
I usually keep my head down, tucked into my computer, writing, sending emails and keeping tabs on the world via Facebook. I notice regulars, I chat with the people who refill my coffee, but Coffee Talk is sort of an extension of my home office (couch).
But Annie and I noticed each other. We generally inhabited Coffee Talk at the same hours, and we generally tended to be furiously scribbling or typing away in the same "sprint and sigh" manner. (Work furiously for several minutes, getting all your thoughts typed or written out, then lean back, sip your coffee and sigh, in order to regather one's thoughts)
We even did this in sync once, and shared a laugh at our own ridiculousness. With Lisa Loeb playing in the background, it could have been the start to a romantic comedy. I was developing a friend crush.
One day I asked her to watch my computer while I went to the bathroom. When I came back I came back we started chatting. She talked about her jobs, I talked about my jobs, we talked about what we were working on, we giggled at all the "me, too!"s we shared.
After about 30 minutes of laughing and talking, I asked her if she wanted to hang out some time. Get a cup of coffee (we laughed again) or something. "I was just going to say the same thing!" she said and we exchanged emails and phone numbers.
I finished up what I was working on, then left Coffee Talk after saying goodbye to Annie.
That night I got an email from Annie asking if I wanted to get together on Thursday night. I quickly responded "Yes!" and happily started imagining life with my new friend.
She seemed cool, down to earth, funny, a little weird -- all the things I miss most about my closest friends scattered around Los Angeles and various cities on the mainland. I pictured us staying up late over wine, chatting about all the frustrating things in our day, as well as the secret big things we hoped for in our lives.
I saw late night phone calls, after work "I've had a bad day, let's get a drink" conversations, and blossoming inside jokes that would contribute to the friend lexicon we'd develop and let flourish.
I got way ahead of myself. I don't normally do this shit, but I realized, when I got that first email from Annie, that I was lonely. Lonely for the close friendships that I'd left when I moved to Hawai'i.
Don't get me wrong, I have some friends here in Hawai'i, and they are great people. My husband and I regularly hang out with another couple he met through his PhD program. They are supportive, creative, and fun, and can share with me and husband the highs and lows of being transplanted on an island, as well as the stresses of being in a PhD program or a PhD candidate's spouse. But purely because of scheduling, and at times, vastly different lifestyles, I suspect the closeness I long for would be difficult at this time in their lives.
The two other friends I've made, again while caring and interesting people, have their own deeply rooted lives on the island that I am simply not a part of. I don't hold it against them, there is just a disconnect.
And that's what I realize I'm longing for, connection. The connection of having a friend in your life that sees you, and you see them, as an important part of getting through the joys and sorrows in life. I'm good at being alone -- there are a lot of times I love it -- but having no relief from myself is becoming more and more difficult.
My husband is no slouch either, but our schedules are sometimes literally night and day. And let's face it, there's something different about a close confidant that you're not married to.
That's why I got so excited when Annie reached out to me. Could this be the friend that would fill the void in my personal life?
I fully realize I was mentally putting all my friend-eggs all in one bright and shiny friend-basket. Again, I don't normally do this. I'm usually very careful with who I choose to open up to. But this time, amidst the anxiety and depression I've been battling, there was a hint of desperation that is an entirely new and unsettling feeling for me.
Am I becoming the person I used to avoid?
Anyway, our coffee date.
Annie and I met after work at another coffee place halfway between both our homes.
We ran into each other in the parking lot, hugged hello, got our coffee drinks, and hunkered down at a table outside.
The conversation was easy and light. We talked more about our jobs, as that was how we initially started talking, then moved onto how we both ended up in O'ahu.
In retrospect, I should have smelled something amiss when she kept bringing the conversation back to where I saw myself in the future, in the next five years, what I was actively doing to achieve my dreams.
Maybe part of me picked up on it, I caught myself steering the conversation in another direction every time she vaguely mentioned "my company," or the third time she mentioned not wanting to be a "hamster in a wheel."
Finally, after 45 minutes of casual conversation about family, friends, boyfriends, husbands and our career goals, Annie dropped the bomb.
Before I could say, "Oh! I think I left my cat's coffee maker on and I'd better go check on it," she was drawing graphs, handing me slim pamphlets, and explaining about the different kinds of workers in the world.
I'd been schemed.
People have tried to rope me into this before, and usually I'm really good about sussing out the situation, and running far, far away. But this time, with the aroma of desperation in the air, and my spidey senses all tangled up in "FRIEND!" I missed the signs completely.
She was so nice! And funny! And we really seemed to CONNECT!
I felt so stupid.
My disappointment simmered down to anger at my own naivete, and in the last 15 minutes of what had turned into our "meeting," I fought back the tears as I nodded politely at Annie's presentation, and kept one eyed peeled for my getaway ride.
It was a presentation.
We parted ways with me saying, "Sorry, this sounds sketchy to me," and scurrying off to my husband's car. When he asked me how my "date" went, I told him she didn't want me, she wanted me to be her mentee.
"I'm so sorry, Weezel. I know how excited you were for your new friend," his genuine sympathy surprised me, and made me tear up again.
The response was similar when I told my best friend in LA. And while I appreciate the kindness, I'm surprised by the reactions.
Shouldn't I have known better? Wasn't all my neediness, obvious or not, setting me up for something like this?
I get out, I do meet people, but I'm having so much trouble making friends. It's never been so difficult before, why is it so difficult now?
Part of me feels like I'm overreacting. I'm too old for this. So you're not a social butterfly? You've got a lot of things going for you Louise, there's no need to get all down and dismal because you don't have a late night gossip buddy.
But when social comfort has been such a major part of your life for so many years, the absence of it can feel incredibly isolating.
So here I am. I appreciate the friends I have more than ever, I've licked my wounds a bit, and thrown myself into other projects to keep myself busy and away from all the "feelings". But the feelings are there, and I'm still wrestling with them.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you thought you made a friend, but really there were ulterior motives? How much do you depend on your social circle?