Mud is thicker than water.
Self Portrait with a Scorpion (1930) by Leonor Fini
I don’t want friends, I want a gang of thieves, gentle yet courageous, pledging eternal loyalty before it’s appropriate, snickering and guffawing, up to no good, never speaking in polite code, never offering bad book club takes or bad recipes. I want a scrappy entourage, a posse, a gaggle of misfits, easily bored with the usual discourse, cutting to the quick or cutting a path out the door, laser-focused on the moment, the moment, this moment.
All that matters is connection. Make some space for it, feel it, let it dictate the mood. When it’s not there, you can tell: This one sounds like a comedian on a stage, running through his set. This one sounds like a child looking for her mother. This one sounds like a talk show host, stealing a glance at her cue cards. This one sounds like a publicist in search of the right contact.
That’s all fine. I’ve been them before and maybe I’ll be them again. But there’s a difference when it’s your blood brother, rolling into town after a bad divorce, rolling up to insult your taste in outdoor seating, telling you that you own too many pots (“There are too many pots here.” A direct quote.), but how is everything anyway, how the fuck are you? It’s different when what you hear, from across the driveway, from across the country, from across the space between you, is a hunger for something real and true. Self-deluded and demented, why not? Sure. But real.
If you know how to assert yourself, narcissists are sometimes your best bet, and maybe they’re not narcissists at all, they’re just getting warmed up, running scales, improvising backstage, gearing up for the main event. They won’t bullshit you just for the sake of sounding polite. They’re just scratching around for a coherent theme, picking through their day for moments of clear sight, punching the walls to see if they’re solid, sifting through the distant past with an edge of resentment, wandering through future possibilities in search of an insight that might lead to a devastating memory that uncovers an idea that conjures a punchline that results in two minutes of loud laughter, laughter that says I can pick a lock in five seconds flat, how about you, let’s take a train to Budapest, bring the good snacks, bring the bourbon, bring the space between us, electric. High five, you fucking bastard. Fist bump, you fucking nerd. Love you forever, you fucking whore.
If you want a real gang, you can’t sweat rejection, ghosting, disappearances. You’ll want the slippery ones and the solid ones, both kinds. If you have a taste for the jumpy motherfuckers, you have to be patient. Don’t wait up for them to come back. They’re running after some moment that happened over here, some energy over there. They’re not memorizing lines or repeating themselves. This moment is everything. Showing up empty-handed, ready to embrace whatever is here, takes conviction. Maybe they don’t need you at all. Do you need to be needed? Just don’t forget the ones who never went away. They’re not boring just because they already love you for exactly who you are. Remember?
Your alliance might shift by the hour. We are unfashioned creatures, but half made up… with weak and faulty natures. You want the ones who can honor weakness and strength alike, make sense of whatever develops, throw your problems into the pot, throw your fragile worries in there, ask good questions, hold tight to a brilliant thread and never let go. Or your time together drags, because you’re both tired and no one is performing. That’s the whole point, though: Creeping through the night, chuckling to yourselves, maybe, but never holding forth or running through well-worn routines, never talking without thinking, leaving space to improvise, generous space, confident and affectionate. Loyal allegiance makes room for the unknown. Do your intentions match? Can you trust this glorious stranger? Are you still curious about this lifelong friend? How does the air feel between you? Can you welcome whatever comes up?
I get rejected all the time. I disappear, too. You have to be brave. There’s no time to pretend. I don’t need your 10-minute set. I don’t want to sit here until you’re slurring your words. I’m not your therapist or your audience or your mother.
Unless that’s the shape this afternoon takes, and that’s where this confident silence leads us, and we dig for a better idea and then slip onto an overnight train and decide for ourselves that we’re corrosive imposters, lifelong collaborators, the absolute worst, tell me everything, let’s cross-reference our enemies, let’s plan a heist, let’s write bad poetry until the morning light, yes, I’m your brother, yes, I’m your pet and your Greek chorus and your muse and your fix and your guardian, I am everything and nothing, a blast of raw devotion, a garden too crowded with pots, feel this admiration and this ardor, take all of my thoughts, eat this unqualified wonder, crossing the ice, in search of the daemon, high five, you fucking nerd, love you forever.
This post is also about friendship and daemons and honor among thieves. Thanks for reading! This newsletter is made possible by unfashioned creatures like you.
Genius. What would I have done without my band of thieves over this most recent political cycle? (More) heads would have rolled.