She was a few years my senior, and while the paths that had brought us together had a good bit of overlap, they were not the same. I planned to spend the few days I'd be spouseless with her, since my work didn't tie me down to home. Sensing that she was suffering from a lack of self-confidence, I hoped maybe the time we'd have might help with it.
So much of her story was familiar that it hurt a bit: there were memories, parts of my past, that I'd mercifully let sink beyond my grip now floating back to the surface. But that was not the point, and I tried not to dwell. Instead, I did my best to spend scattered moments of the next few days taking her around with me to what seemed as an outsider to be a selection of the most interesting sights, experiences, meals, in her part of the world. It meant pushing her out of her comfort zone a bit. But it also meant sushi and beaches, bike trails and cocktails, galleries and galas for female brewers.
And I got to see her world through her eyes: The bubbling creativity of her art and her work. The coffee shop, not unlike my own usual hangout, where she was greeted by name. And alas, a couple times, the casual abuse from strangers who passed us on the street.
This is friendship in the digital age. We'd not met physically until the 3 nights I spent on her inflatable mattress, and yet for neither of us was my departure an easy thing. The return journey shortly offered traffic jams that I'd grapple with til partway into the third state, but hours of Pennsylvania countryside with just music to keep me company offered ample time to unwind my own emotions while helplessly hoping she'd keep moving with the forward progress we made while I was there.