People were coming in off the street, straggling into the old house by twos and threes. Lots of people dressed in black. Lots of eye makeup, torn fishnets, tattoos and cigarettes. This was the kind of public party that earns organizers heavy citations. A high volume of high people. And no liquor license.
The only faces I knew were the two hosts and they were nowhere in sight. Maybe they had passed out in a hazy embrace behind the cash register downstairs, or maybe they were in that one room with the Naughty Nurse who was just threatening to start her striptease. Or maybe they had just fled to avoid prosecution. I didn’t know. I wasn’t going to track them down. They were great guys and all, but I was there to mingle, meet new people, and sight-see.
This was not my usual crowd.
I’ve been a religionaut for most of my life and at the time I was hip deep in my Wicca phase. By day this place was a shop that stocked metaphysical supplies, taxidermy, curiosities, and goth accessories, and I used to go there for candles and conversation. But right now, long after closing time, it was a black light that was attracting the darkest little moths in the city.
There were lots of rooms in that old two-story house-turned-business, each its own tiny ecosystem. Being a happily married, one-maybe-two-beer kind of nerd, I settled on a room that was a little quieter and more completely clothed. As I recall the fireplace was bricked up and there were no windows. I think the walls were painted black and purple except for one that had a mural on it. My memory of it is a little fuzzy. In fact my memory of the entire night is a little fuzzy and I may have some of the details a little cock-eyed. Sensory overload.
What I remember very clearly, like one of those pictures where the center is in focus and the rest is blurry, is that I met a guy who was not at all like me. He was my diametric opposite in every measurable way. And yet, as we talked, I knew I’d met a friend.
That must have been almost ten years ago now. Since that time my friend and I have become best friends. We’re both quite a bit different that we were back then. I’m no longer into Wicca and he’s lost about forty pounds. I’m less of a pie-in-the-sky dreamer and he’s a little less dark and cynical. But it’s more than just the surface level stuff. We’re both better, stronger people than we were then. We’ve challenged each other, pushed each other, had profound and lasting positive effects on one another.
That’s what happens when you make friends.
You don’t really learn much from your enemies. With enemies there’s no dialogue. With enemies you keep your distance. Each has an entirely different frame of reference and sees everything from an opposing perspective. In order to see things in a similar way you have to stand side-by-side and look together.
So when I scan the headlines and I see our country normalizing relations with previously estranged nations, striking new deals and arrangements, and reopening embassies, that sounds like good news. Because I know that diametric opposites — precisely because they are diametric opposites — stand to learn quite a bit from one another. And that is a very good thing.