I got a card in the mail today inviting me to a dear friend’s housewarming party in Boston.
Few things provoke as many conflicting emotions in me as these reminders of long-distance friendships: there’s affection, fondness and nostalgia, on the one hand; sadness, loss and resignation on the other. For better or for worse, our relationships thrive through proximity. Intimacy, like gravity, is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between two objects.
I’ve struggled for years with the tension generated by migratory friendships. In my early twenties, I made a project out of keeping in touch, scheduling routine texts, calls, emails and cards. In more recent years, I’ve come to accept (grudgingly and resentfully) that friendship can’t thrive on willpower alone; that intimacy can’t be sustained merely by the affinity between souls; that it takes as little (and as much!) as the regular immersion in the trivialities of the other’s world.
All of which is easy to get with people you don’t care much about; it’s a lot more challenging with people who mattered deeply once. Because with all the means of cheap and instantaneous communication available at our disposal, the nagging voice of recrimination remains: You know you can keep those bonds alive. You know you can if you really try.
That’s the rub, really. We know we can if we really try. We simply have to live with the fact that we often don’t.