At the Friend Center

We had to wait for hours there, crammed in a cold room with uncomfortable chairs. The only magazines were Readers Digest. We tried to make small talk with each other but it petered out after a few minutes — we knew there was no point in jumping the gun.

Finally we were called in, one by one. My examiner was a woman with a blonde bun. She administered a vocabulary test, then told me to run on a treadmill. Afterwards she set me a series of tasks, such as dropping dried beans through a small hole in the top of a coffee can. Sometimes she made notes; at other moments, she seemed not to be paying attention. When I was finished she left me alone in a hospital gown for a long time. Then a different woman came to give me my list.

We met up in a large multipurpose room in the back for juice and donuts. I can’t say I liked all my new friends at first — one of them talked too much about cycling, while another kept sniffing loudly. But I had read the pamphlet. I knew that any failing in my new friends was matched by a failing in myself, and I resolved to love them as I myself was deserving of love.

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