We took over three tables. 6 adults and 2 children. Coffee, tea, smoothies, everyone had something to drink, we settled in and began to talk. The cafe is in a bookstore and there were several other tables full of people browsing through books or quietly meeting others. We weren't, um, quiet. We started to talk and laugh, and laugh, and laugh. We talked about the love life of dogs, maple syrup and pancakes, hospital horror stories, being brought up on powdered milk.
Over the couple of hours what happens when friends get together happened. Labels begin to fall away, the way we are defined by the world becomes less important. Soon I became who I seldom get to be - sexuality, disability, gender, weight, age became mere adjectives that didn't define or describe the person under all those yellow stickies. Others looking at the table might have seen a fat, balding, wheelchair user sitting next to his boyfriend. But that's not who was at the table.
Years ago I remember working with a little boy with Down Syndrome who had a wonderful best friend that he loved spending time with. I was told that if I wanted to connect with him, just ask him about Robbie. He waxed poetic about his friend and ended by saying, cryptically, 'he lets me feel free'.
I thought about that on our way back to the hotel. In an atmosphere of safety, created by friendship, there is a freedom which is seldom experienced. Surely we all remain respectful of each other, all remain caring, freedom could not exist without such social agreements. But even so, it was good to be Dave again.
Not the blogger. Not the lecturer. Not the consultant. Not the boyfriend. Not the wheelchair user. Not the ... anything.
That little guy with Down Syndrome knew early what I am learning now.
Friends let me feel free.