The first time I saw her, the woman who would become my friend, best friend, unhealthy fixation, her picture was in the newspaper.A few days before the start of the conference to which we’d both been invited, her first novel was published to rave reviews.
“I don’t like her,” I said to my husband, Pete, then I pretended to pull out my hair.
To be fair, at this particular moment in my life — anxious, lonely, bored in my marriage, and up to my eyeballs in kids — I didn’t like anyone, especially myself.
On the surface, I had most of what I’d always wanted: a husband, a home, two healthy kids, and after a decade of professional frustration and failure, something that could pass as a career.
I had the things I’d craved so deeply when I was younger, the things that had seemed impossibly out of reach in my early 20s when I’d had not much more to ground my life than a handful of intimate friendships with other women.
And yet, as I prepared to leave for the conference, I knew that something was missing. ” I can imagine what she’s imagining, a series of illicit hotel encounters or elaborate schemes to find a bed without producing a credit-card receipt.
The conference was for scholars and writers, but the scholars were many and the writers were few. “I don’t know what I am anymore.” “You’re drunk,” he told me. The word intimacy sounds seedy, or worse, sentimental — it’s a word used to sell lingerie or Viagra.There were only four of us, in fact, and of the four, only this woman and I spoke English. Call it projection or a profound impatience for the normal social mores that make deep-friendship formation so excruciatingly arduous. “Go to bed.” If I mention to a friend over lunch this notion that I might be an intimacy addict, she leans closer and lowers her voice. It’s a word therapists use when they don’t want to employ the more colloquial term: fucking.I had a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, a novel of my own I couldn’t finish.I didn’t notice much that wasn’t clinging to my physical body or standing in my way.He held her picture up to me that Sunday morning, not just any photo but a photo flanked by praise.I looked at her picture, then her bio, then the part of the bio that indicated she was eight years my junior.