20. Friends / by Allie Farris

     Today is a very drab day. Hopefully the last one in a string of drab days. I planted my herbs and peppers on the balcony in the second half of last week, and starting Saturday it’s been doing nothing but rain. Clouds, and rain. And as of yesterday, C is in sunny Switzerland.

     In preparation for the week C would be gone, I said yes to every tuning during the heavy influx of last-minute calls I received last week. Most have been the frantic, Can you please come in the next few days?? kinds of calls, to tune all kinds of pianos. I had a home studio tuning with a shrill set of overtones that needed subduing on Sunday, taking me nearly three hours; and two fine tunings on a hundred year old upright and a Yamaha grand (that turned out lovely) yesterday. Today was perhaps the most stressful day so far, due to a lack of understanding from both clients. The first studio this morning sat in the room with me while I worked on a very old grand I had warned would not be a precision tuning, due to the age of the instrument and how far it had gone out in its non-temperature controlled environment. I told him it would need multiple tunings to reach a consistent fine tuning. This guy looked past me, not hearing, and as soon as I was finished bringing the instrument back to life (a two and a half hour process), he walked over to the piano, dropped his hands forcefully onto the keyboard, and banged out a chord so loud it hurt my ears. I left, already giving up on the day.
     The second tuning was just now, a miniature harpsichord. This was a rare thrift store find by a well-known studio owner in Nashville, and this thing has seen some rough times. A few of the notes wouldn’t actually sound, so I had to carefully use my finger to pluck the strings. When I started tuning, I realized the instrument had seen an incredibly tumultuous year, and had fallen an entire step flat (which is a ton). I broke the news to the studio owner immediately; he didn’t seem pleased.
     When I finished, I tiptoed through the front lobby of the studio, past the owner and the famous artist who is cutting his new album there (and who I actually know from my touring days; he seemed weirded out that I was now ‘the help’). His manager was also in the room, and was loudly discussing how many ‘points would be given after the first million’. Whatever that meant.

     It’s days like this, as I hobble to my car with a back very near to snapping, weakly lowering myself into the driver’s seat with my lunch smoothie in hand, that I feel pretty lonely. These past few dark, stormy days have also bred an anxiety in me. It's been taking longer than usual to tune, which can me feel like I’m losing control over my sanity. I’m tired of tuning. I’m ready to be someone who’s not made to sneak out of a room. I want to be a special addition, not a forgotten accessory. Someone people other than my few close friends are excited to see in real life. 
     Last night was my weekly wine group, but this meeting was special. For the first time ever, the meeting was held at my apartment, since I moved to a new one last fall. I had gotten a really beautiful, highly fancy premier cru white burgundy in the mail with my monthly subscription box, and it just happened to coincide with our week of studying white burgundy. The other three ladies and I took it as a sign: we needed to go big. Deb, the leader of the group and the only one of us four who is actually a registered sommelier, informed us that the perfect pairing to white burgundy is of course, lobster, and because she loves us so much, she’d bring the lobster tails to our next meeting. Gabby brought some cheeses, Emily brought garlic Parmesan roast potatoes, and I supplied the wine and dessert. It was magical. I was planning to have the meal outside, but the weather chose otherwise. Instead, we gathered around my coffee table on floor cushions and dug in. With that first, life-altering bite and sip of the wine and lobster together, I involuntarily exclaimed that this is the food they serve in heaven. 

     I used to have many other friends, but that seems so long ago now. These women I meet with every week are growing more dear to me every time I see them; I have those friendly acquaintances that I tune for or teach piano lessons to on a regular basis; and then I have those very few, like Sharon and my Ohio parents, that I consider family after all these years. 
     I had a best friend growing up. He was the bassist of my band in high school and at the start of my college years. He was shy, and probably didn’t even want to be my friend when we first met at 13. Yet something made me pursue him--a selfish obsession with having a sidekick, an unwillingness to leave this poor shy kid alone. So I called him on the phone. Then he came over to play music. And over the course of six years, he and I toured together, played in talent shows and contests, went to the same college and lived in the same dorm; and he even came to Hawaii with me on a vacation with my family. On that trip, while we both sat on the beach, we read a book out loud to each other, passing it between us after every chapter. When we got home, we finished it while reading to each other over the phone.

     The sad part is, I don’t think I ever appreciated what I had, and neither did he. On his side, he never opened himself up, opting to give me distance rather than lean on me in times of stress. On my side, I naively grew to believe I was in love with him, and tried to convince him to kiss me on multiple occasions. He never did. I regret being so greedy with the first close friendship I ever had, giving unabashedly into my codependent tendencies before I even knew they existed. I was too young, and too stupid to know the difference between a loved one and a lover. 

     Over the course of my moves from Texas, to Boston, and then to Nashville, he came to visit me a few times. There was one final flight that I begged him to take: to be in Nashville for the night I recorded my live album at the High Watt. He never went to the airport, and told me when I called him on my way to the show. I hung up on him, and stopped answering his calls for a few days. Because I'd never avoided him before then, things were never the same between us. After a few more years and sparser and sparser communications, he stopped answering my messages entirely. After I met C, I called my friend to tell him I was engaged, and he told me he had a girlfriend too, which was his first. I made the stupid joke that I’d have to meet her to make sure I approved. We haven’t talked since that night. I’ve messaged him every year on his birthday, and on some major holidays. He seems happy, from what I can tell on Facebook. 

     It’s a sunken feeling, when someone you thought was in your corner isn’t anymore. Sometimes it’s only for a few weeks, other times it’s a few years; eventually every trace of them is gone.
     But you always have yourself. Friends come and go; some stick with you through the storms. Some haunt you long after the friendship ends. Some bring you lobster tails and share stories, laughter, and even read your blog (hi, Em). I feel lucky for the friends I’ve got now, and will hopefully have in my corner forever.