How Do You Define Friendship?


Living in New York City was a fantasy that became a reality for me in July 2001. Coming from a small town in Texas, I personally didn’t have too much to hope for in life but there was one voice that always screamed the loudest saying, “You can do it! There’s more for you! Don’t give in!” But it wasn’t the little voice inside me, it was an even smaller voice but it came from the biggest person I know–my best friend Cris.

Cris and I met over 25 years ago in the 4th grade at Austin Elementary in Odessa,Texas. It was the middle of the school year and Cris and her family had recently crossed the border from Mexico and were now living the American dream. She didn’t know a word of English and because ESL (English as a second language) classes didn’t exist then, our teacher, Mrs. Bulter, pushed our desks together and I became her translator and I despised every moment of it.

Because of my newly assigned duties, I was no longer allowed to go out and play during recces–I had to translate what Jane and and her dog Spot were doing. Play time? That ceased to exist as well because Cris needed help learning the alphabet and didn’t grasp the concept of the silent “K”. Every day I walked into class looked around wishing that Cris would have either moved back to Mexico or learned English over night but seeing our two desks attached to one another reminded me that I wasn’t getting either of my wishes.

But we didn’t become friends very easily–not even when her uncle Cruz married my cousin Becky when we were in the 7th grade. Cris claims that I was such a snob to her at the wedding and acted as if I didn’t know her but I plea the Fifth on that one. Our friendship began to formulate during our senior year in high school when placed into work-groups and Cris and I were once again paired up for a project. From that moment, we’ve been inseparable and have seen one another through break-ups, marriages, divorce, more marriages, child births, deaths in the family, personal triumphs, school, career changes, and the most important weight loss/gain.

Cris and I speak on a daily basis–four to five times on certain days and while people will ask what could we possibly talk about; I can’t answer because I don’t know. At times we just listen to each other sigh on the phone then hang up. It’s one of those things that can’t be explained but you just accept–like Lady Gaga’s nose.

I remember “coming out” to Cris when I was 17-years-old and scared of what she’d think of me; ¬†terrified she’d never talk to me again. Being gay in a small town in Texas is bad but being gay and Mexican is worse. And her opinion mattered the most to me then and still-to-date, she’s the only one I seek approval from. Cris was quiet on the phone call as I cried after I shamefully told her, “I’m gay“. Through her own tears she softly whispered, “You have nothing to be ashamed of and I might not understand what you’re going through, but I’m here for you now and forever.” We look back at that moment and laugh our asses off now because it was so dramatic–two Mexican crying on the phone like in one of those Spanish Novelas! Should either one of us get famous, we think about how that moment will be played on- screen and who will play the younger versions of ourselves. Since we keep getting older and neither one of us is getting closer to fame, we have to continuously re-cast actors throughout the years.

Whether it was flying over to Paris helping me celebrate becoming a US citizen in 2003, screaming on the phone when I told her I was selected to photograph Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys for a red carpet event in 2005, or in 2006 crying all night long with me as my heart had broken by the one man I thought could never hurt me–Cris has been there every step of the way. We’ve had major ups and downs and it hasn’t always been a sweet road paved with tacos and salsa, but I can’t imagine not having her in my life and even though she’s married and has two boys, she always finds time to listen to me bitch, complain, or rant. (Click here to see Cris get her hair done by Celebrity Stylist, Davide Torchio.

Writing a blog about Cris seems to betray our relationship because certain things in my life do remain private despite my blogger status and Cris has always been one of them–it’s just between me and her. But I woke up this morning wanting to share my friendship with the world and also talk about a strange phenomenon she and I started experiencing a few years ago. I woke up upset and miserable not understanding why when she called to explain about a huge argument she had just experienced and was feeling like crap. I didn’t think much of it until it started happening more frequently; if she was going through an emotion (all the way over in Iowa), so was I (all the way over here in New York); we were connected emotionally. I’d be having the best day of my life and all of a sudden start to cry like Eminem after hearing the new Mariah song. I’d immediately call Cris as she’s crying hysterically telling me about her bad day. But the weird part is that it also worked in reverse. She experienced my joys and fell as if she just won a 50-yard dash after I’d sign a new client contract, received a new blogging assignment ¬†or was finally able to fit into my size 32 jeans–she’d feel all that while standing at Starbucks ordering her White Chocolate Mocha, no whip, non fat–one pump.

But maybe it doesn’t need explaining, all I know is that for 25 years she’s been there for me and I only hope that I have reciprocated just as equally. I don’t understand how people can be friends one moment and then not speak another–but I guess I don’t want to understand. Some of my greatest moments in life have been with her laughing until it hurts but also crying until it got better. Her husband thinks we’re odd as we want to be buried next to one another but that’s just us; maybe we should just have our coffins pushed together? No matter what, she’s my soul mate and my biggest cheerleader in life. And I better stop writing because it’s time for one of our calls.

How do you define friendship? And who’s been your longest life companion?

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3 thoughts on “How Do You Define Friendship?

  • January 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm
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    Nando, this is truly beautiful. I envy your friendship. Unfortunately, I had opposite experiences growing up and therefore very easy for me to sever relationships. I will tell you that you were a huge comfort when I needed you

    Reply
    • January 18, 2010 at 10:09 am
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      And it’s always the great people who go through something like this.
      Girl, you are wonderful and NYC is missing you!

      Reply
  • December 16, 2011 at 1:43 am
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    This is a beautiful story and it literally sums up my relationship with my besties. I hated the beeshes at first and now I can’t live without them, their joys are my joys, their sorrows are my sorrows. I can feel their emotions and can always count on them to call me out on mine. Beautiful story and gracias a dios por estas beeshes in our lives! xo

    Reply

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