Tuesday, September 8, 2009

LOVE IS JUST A WORD

"I can't deal with you right now, but you know I still love you."

That was the loud and clear message sent to me by one of my best friends in BA last night via email after I sent him an email asking how he was doing. The last time I had heard from him had been roughly two weeks and three days earlier, when he called me in the middle of the night on my land line to leave me a voice mail with his new telephone number. (I'm not sure what he has against late night emails or quiet text messages, but apparently, interrupting my deep sleep and frightening the hell out of me in the process is not his problem.) I don't know what transpired between then and now, or what long-standing gripe he has with me, but having not seen him or had a conversation with him in at least a month, I can't begin to imagine.

Or maybe something was lost in translation. But I didn't stop to consider that. As shaky as my friend's English is, he should know better than to talk to me like that. And as anyone who does know me and is reading this has already figured out, I did not take kindly to his words. If he had a problem with something I'd done in the past, or something I had been doing over time, he owed it to me and to our friendship to let me know, so that we could address the issue. Answering a "How do you do?" with what amounts to "Fuck you," basically, "but you know I still love you," is no way to treat a valued friend. And I sent him an email telling him so, and a little bit more.

It reminds of the time when my sister, who at one time or another probably claimed to "love" me as well, did not call me on my 30th birthday because she was too depressed to pick up the phone or write an email. I understand depression, and anger, and all those tricky emotions, but sometimes all it takes is a simple "Happy birthday," or "I'm fine, thank you. And how are you?" to keep the peace. But the most sensitive people I know are also the most insensitive when dealing with other people. Now I'm no paragon of perfect behavior, but I have learned that honesty and forthrightness -- knowing when to put up and when to shut up -- can sometimes save a friendship. Or are all friendships destined eventually to go the way of Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine's in The Turning Point (above) and enter a temporary, or permanent, ice age?

Damn crazy porteños and self-centered sisters. You know I still love them, but right now I just can't deal with them.

In the United States, people throw around the word "love" like life is a game of catch, and here in meat country, things are no different. Love, or el amor, is used and abused as much as the digestive system. If I know my porteños -- and after nearly exactly three years, I think I do -- my friend will pop back into my life in a few weeks, as if nothing has happened, no apology necessary (because porteños do not apologize -- ever!). That's just the way they are. They come in and out and in and out of your life, with a casual "tanto tiempo" ("long time, no speak"), acting as if it's the most normal thing in the world. And for them, it is. They're hot and they're cold, as every single expatriate friend of mine has experienced at least twice. As usual, I might accept the lack of an apology and pretend that nothing ever happened, too. Or not. I've never had the patience of a saint, but what little I do have is on the verge of running out.
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