Sometime in the early winter of my sophomore year of college, I took a train to Providence, RI to visit my on-again-off-again boyfriend at Brown University. Over coffee and absurdly huge cookies at the Meeting Street Cafe on Thayer street, we declared ourselves (well, he declared us) officially off. Permanently.
I poured all of my strength into not bursting into tears. I stood up from the table and collected my things. I had wanted to abruptly turn on my heel and get the hell out of there, but December in the Northeast requires a lot of accessories, so I had to put on my jacket, scarf, hat and gloves while choking back tears and attempting to appear calm. Finally, I said goodbye, dodged his charity kiss on the cheek and told him not to call me, before trudging out the door and into the snowy streets. I walked toward the Commuter Rail station (still willing myself not to cry just in case he came after me) and bought a ticket. Mercifully, there was a train leaving for Boston within five minutes. Once I was safe on the near-empty train, I peeled off my coat, thrust my hat, scarf and gloves on the seat next to me and sobbed hard for the entire forty-five minute ride to South Station. I continued crying as I walked back to my dorm building and made a beeline for my friend Craig's room. He opened the door and, upon seeing the mascara-smeared-red-faced-disheveled mess in front of him, immediately folded me into a tight hug and whispered, "I take it things didn't go too well in Providence?" I said nothing and so he brought me inside, held me and stroked my hair until I could breathe evenly enough to get the story out. He listened, reminded me that I had been having doubts about this guy for a long time, and instructed me to go take a warm shower, put fresh sheets on my bed and go to sleep. Things would, he promised, be at least a tiny bit better in the morning.
I did as he said and, while I still awoke the next day with a heavy heart, it wasn't as bad as it had been the day before.
A decade later, Craig is visiting me here in San Francisco for the weekend. And, while that ex-boyfriend is long gone from my life and it's been a very long time since I've been quite that upset, I keep thinking about that night so many years ago. How lucky I was to be able to completely fall apart in front of a trusted friend with nary a worry of being judged. To have had my seemingly profound despair and sadness met with soothing love and compassion (by a nineteen-year-old boy, no less)--it was true friendship in its purest form and something I took very much to heart.
As I mentioned, I rarely, if ever, fall apart like that anymore. In part, I guess, because my judgment has improved with time (that ex-boyfriend had been telling me directly and indirectly for months that it wasn't going to work out and yet I refused to listen--now, I'm much more tuned-in), but also because when things go wrong, I'm better able to keep my head above water and sort things out. Still, there is something deeply reassuring about knowing that, if I ever were to fall apart again, there are people I could do in front of who would come out on the other end of it with their love and respect for me intact.
I don't need to have a lot of people in my life who would be willing to witness a Gabi Moskowitz Meltdown, but I must admit, it's nice to know there are at least a few.