Ever since I stumbled upon "It" when I was a senior in high school, I have loved Stephen King. I began to read his books voraciously in college. I loved the way his books all seem to tie together in mysterious ways. I loved that characters from one book popped up in others. I loved how he alluded to other books in his short stories (sometimes alluding to a book that hadn't yet been written.) When people asked who my favorite author is, I instantly responded with his name.
But once I got through his books, the wait for new ones got long...and lonely.
So I turned to Dean Koontz to ease my pain.
Koontz is an entirely different writer than King. He dabbles more in fantasy (which I'm not particularly fond of) and his stories are fast paced right from page one. King's books start off notoriously slow and take true dedication to get to the fabulously bone chilling meat of the book.
But this isn't a critique of one writer's strengths over the other.
I never listed Koontz among my favorite authors. He was always a filler. He was just what I read when I didn't have any new books from my "favorite" authors. He was always there, and his books always satisfied. It wasn't until I moved into my own apartment, and FINALLY put all of my books on a bookshelf (alphabetically organized by author: yes I am that person) that I realized that the number of Koontz books that I owned actually outnumbered the number of King books that I owned. And I owned practically every single Stephen King book.
"Wow," I thought, "I must really like Dean Koontz."
The thought was somewhat of a surprise. Then I thought back to how much I liked Koontz's "Odd" books, and set out right then to the bookstore to buy the next one. It was the first time I set out with the goal to buy a Koontz book instead of just turning to him as a default.
Now, I'll buy the new Koontz book as regularly as I'll buy the new King book. It's tough on the pocketbook, let me tell you. When people ask me to list my favorite authors, I'll mention both King and Koontz.
When I found out that a friend of mine whom I have known for over ten years was moving away, the first emotion I felt was nothing but excitement for her. We were close friends, but never that "talk-on-the-phone-see-each-other-daily-consult-each-other-for-everything" type of friend. I started thinking about her new adventure, all the things she would be experiencing, and how jealous I was of the turn her life was taking. It added to my motivation to change things in my life and put them more in the direction I kept thinking they should be in.
Then, when I went to her going away party, it began to sink in that she was really leaving Indiana. Not that our friendship would end, but she wouldn't be HERE with me. My first reaction to that thought was a hearty "BOO!" but with rueful acceptance. We would be fine.
THEN I looked back over the years of our friendship. There were times when we didn't talk but once every six months. There were times when she would call me out of the blue with an idea for a new adventure. I always said yes. There were times she would invite me out, and I would know no one but her (and the person who came with me.) It would occur to me how different our lives were. How were we still friends?? I remember once being in the car with her when she critiqued the new color of a cross walk sign.
"I don't like those," she said. "The color is obnoxious."
"Wow. You really do have an opinion about everything, don't you?" I responded.
Pot, meet Kettle.
About three and a half years ago, my life began to undergo a series of dramatic changes. I had quit my (horrible) job, was in the process of losing my best friend, started dating a guy I thought I was going to marry, gotten over the LAST guy I thought I was going to marry....I felt like I was finally growing into me.
Around this time, my friend was also going through changes. In a job she didn't like, post breakup with a guy who was no good for her, had gotten over being "in like" with a guy who was unavailable and went on to dating a guy who was just as unavailable (though she didn't know it at the time....) She reached out to me with the following suggestion:
"We don't see each other enough. What if we schedule monthly dinners together?"
Like all other adventures, I said, "Sure!"
The dinners evolved from dinners out (my side of town, her side of town, my side of town...etc.) to dinners in (my place, her place, my place....) She cooked these fabulous meals with seemingly little stress. Meanwhile, I was leaving early from work, making a mess of my kitchen, and lucky if I had the table set by the time she arrived. They were the one event each month that I wouldn't miss unless I was DYING.
We had other adventures too. I need someone to go with me to Italian Fest. No problem. Butler basketball games? Done. Let's try kickboxing! Why not?? Latin dance classes? Awesome!
We had our last monthly dinner on August 29th.
I look back over the years of our friendship and realize that although I might not have appreciated it at the time, her friendship was as reliable as Koontz books were. Like Koontz, she was always there, and always made me just as happy as any others in my life. Sometimes I even had MORE fun in her presence than with those I considered closer friends. It's too bad that I only started to put her friendship front and center so late. I have a feeling I'll miss her in moments I can't even imagine right now, and those moments will hit me out of the blue - like when I should be kickboxing or want to go to the next "Puppy Bowl" at Animal Control.
I can only hope that the future is kind, and the distance doesn't matter.
With close friends it usually doesn't.