So, today I invited my aforementioned friend for a long walk. He sounded happy to hear from me and eager to join me and Shadow, which was a relief to me. I had let the gossip about us rattle me but he sounded like himself, so maybe it was all going to be okay. We walked to the beach on a trail he'd not been on before, which was fun. And he threw a stick for Shadow to swim for, then we walked back up through the woods to the idyllic overlook on the bluff and sat down to rest. He didn't need a rest, but I'm walking more than usual and I certainly did need one. There in the grass I screwed up my courage and asked him: "Have you been getting asked the sorts of questions I'm being asked?" And so it all came out and he seemed genuinely surprised about it. As we talked, all of my anxiety, clearly born out of a fear of losing my friend over gossip, melted away. We shared disappointment about the folks who'd invited me to dinner, then uninvited me. My friend said: "So what they were saying, in effect, was that they don't believe you." And I felt his empathy. It was a cleansing, energizing moment for me. I felt more myself again, confident that I know who I am and who my friend is and that no matter what people say, the truth is the truth.
When we got back to my place I suggested we go out for a bite..." Are you sure you want to be seen with me?" he asked. Oh yes I did. Oh yes I do. I said that at this point I feel so empowered I rather want to flaunt our friendship. We sat at a window table in a restaurant in the center of town. Over dinner we talked about many things, as we often do, and this time spoke of the fact that we have each always been drawn to and comfortable having close friendships with the opposite sex. He said maybe when he is seen with someone else out and about that will take care of the situation. But then I realized, and had to laugh out loud about this, that then the gossips will feel sorry for me because in their minds I will have been ditched for another woman! There is absolutely no way I come out of this unscathed in the minds of these people. They have decided what they believe is going on so any change will have to reflect the story they already believe. How completely obvious is it that one cannot do a thing about the thoughts of others? The only thing to do is let go of it and go about continuing to be true to who I am.
After dinner I went up to his place and we shared some leftover chocolate birthday cake I'd made him along with delicious strawberry rhubarb sauce he'd made, a scrumptious combination. Then I drove us here, we visited a few minutes more and he rode his bike home and called me to share some news about a serendipitous contact from an old girlfriend. Because who do you call when interesting things happen? You call a friend.