I feel awkward dragging others into my castles in the sky, no matter how obviously they are the ones applying the force. It is as if my letting them help me will mean - even for a moment - that I am using them, especially when the only coin I can offer in return is thanks and friendship.
Among my menagerie of friends, I have one whose parent is a fairly major celebrity, the sort where saying my friend's full name provokes shocked reactions and, unfortunately, movie references. While the friend could whisper his parent's name and have his every professional and creative whim catered to relentlessly, he never has. Thus, any successes he comes by are indubitably his and earned. Likewise, I have thus far recoiled at using any connection I've come by. If my writing cannot be judged worthwhile in its merits, I have no business publishing. Of course, it can hardly be judged on its merits if no one ever sees it...
When Jamie mentions that one of her friends works for a literary agency, I make a joke about having always liked her to defuse the situation. But she has read my first novel, We Shadows, and liked it well enough to not let me get away with false humility. No one can rise above without help, and I do believe enough in the product of my efforts that I should seize upon any slight advantage offered to me. Still, I have to fight with myself not to deny her offer of telling her friend about me.
I tell myself that, if Jamie and I were better friends, it would be easier to accept her help, but know this is probably not true. I've known her for a long time - ever since a distant night in a bar before I was able to legally drink - but rarely with any depth. Only with the advent of social networking sites do we find occasion for conversation, only as I lean more heavily on Facebook to fill in the gap my first weekend without Melanie presents me. Jamie and I have orbited around one another, sharing friends and experiences, but never anything that feels significant enough in retrospect.
The night offered us a block party walking distance from my apartment, the sort of event I wouldn't indulge unless I happened to be nearby already. I dangled it as a carrot to entice people, specifically Tara from high school, to visit with me on a lovely night. Jamie took the bait instead and I was surprised, but hardly displeased. My only discomfort came from realizing how little I had kept up with her online journal, but I opted to shower and make myself presentable rather than remediating this deficit before meeting her.
The block party was as I expected, just an excuse for the various restaurants in town to peddle their wares after hours and for two cover bands twenty years past relevance to feel young again. I fault neither, my good humor bolstered by the presence of an elephant bouncy castle with an oddly vulval trunk from which children emerge. Jamie and I talked, darting through the crowds of familiar faces and endeavoring to bond further through light mockery of the cover bands and the consumption of a cotton candy bigger than my torso. I referenced what I could recall from her online postings, namely that she recently took the brave step of quitting a stifling retail job for the chance at something better suited to her soul. Even as I listened to her stories, my brain scribbled details on a mental fact sheet, the basics of Jamie that have evaded me so far. We were always friendly, but not to the level where I know her middle name or, as I later discovered, remember exactly what state she currently lives in.
Jamie does me a considerably better turn, being the first to realize that "The Betsy" started out with Zack's girlfriends and evolved into the corpse processing machine in my novels, and thereby shocking me. I want to immediately start writing things because someone is actually reading them. Even if the literary agency does not pan out, I will have ended the night with a better knowledge of a friend, one I fear I have erstwhile overlooked.
Soon in Xenology: When I was a girl. Making friends out of clay.