Four words and a thousand different interpretations.
Sometimes, when people say “I’m here for you,” they mean “I’m here for a while, for an hour or an evening. You’re a generally good person and I enjoy your company and I know you have to vent right now, so I’ll listen; I’ll even bring the beers if you want. But I probably won’t stay the night.”
Sometimes, when people say “I’m here for you” they mean “I don’t know what else to say to your sad story. You floored me and I have absolutely no advice, nowhere to go from here. All I can do is sit here with you and absorb. Hope that helps.” Other times, “I’m here for you” means “I’m here for you but I’d rather not be, it’s just what you’re supposed to say in these situations so I don’t know. I’m offering, but I hope you don’t actually take me up on it.”
See? Different. Sometimes it means something, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the people who say it might as well be commenting on the weather, the brunch they just came home from. The words come out but they don’t resonate, emptied of their meaning, just tiny bare word packages floating across a synapse. And sometimes the people who truly mean it never say the words at all.
But when I say I’m here for you, I mean it. I mean it differently. Genuinely. Let me explain.
There’s a part of friendship that’s more than camaraderie and good feelings, more than having someone to hang out with all the time and bullshit with on lazy Saturday mornings. There’s a part of friendship — real friendship — that’s fierce love. The part marked by understanding, protection, sacrifice. The strong part. The selfless, human part. The part that would move your body in front of theirs to take a bullet without a blink or second thought.
And that’s why I want to tell you I’m here for you — because I am. Not in the therapist sense, not in the let’s-talk-about-our-crap-boyfriends-over-martinis sense, but the real sense: I love you enough to make room for your pain in my heart and handle it like my own. Or better than my own, because my own usually ends up stuffed into a back corner of my brain and left there to ferment into a viscous, sour liquor.
I’m here for you honestly, sometimes painfully so. I may not have firsthand experience with the exact thing you’re going through, but I know what it means to hurt. Hurt translates pretty well. I know what it’s like to feel silenced, shut down, wounded. To feel like there’s no one who really understands, or cares, or will even make the genuine effort; to feel like even talking about it is nothing but a pointless stirring of air. I care about you too much to make you feel that way alone.
I may not give the best advice, or even moderately good advice, but I’m here for you. I may not give you any advice at all — sometimes there just isn’t any, just try what sucks the least and hope for the best — but I’m listening. You can talk to me about anything you want; your fears and apprehensions, the things you’re afraid to acknowledge let alone say out loud. They probably won’t go away but maybe they’ll get smaller and a little easier to deal with, and that’s still something.
I’m here for you when you’re giving up, when you’re exhausted. I’m here for you when you’ve got no more left. When you’re overwhelmed by the bleak truth and vast helplessness of it all, the ache, the emptiness; I’ll hold your hair back when your sadness makes you sick, hold your chattering bones when you sob in my arms like a hysterical child. I’ll listen to your words or your silence, whichever you give me. I’m here for you when there’s nothing left to say.
I’m here for you, put it on my shoulders. I’m here for you when your heart is squeezed dry, dehydrated and dark like shriveled weeds. When you open your mouth to speak and no sound comes out because language can’t articulate the white noise in your head, can’t wrap descriptors around its frequency, I hear you. Pour your tears into me, wet my shirt sleeves and dry your eyes with my hair.
Genuine friendship is a rare thing and that’s why I want to tell you I’m here for you. And when I say I’m here for you, it’s because I need you too — your existence makes me lighter; your presence helps tease out the mess of the world. Is that weird? Are people allowed to feel that way about other people anymore? There are people all over the place, we’re always stuck in this incredible anthill, but when we find the one person we can actually trust and let our guard down with we cleave to them like dust to sweat. And we’re not trained to feel this way. We’re supposed to be so evolved, so independent and self-serving, that sometimes we forget what it’s like — and that it’s okay — to need someone to love us, take care of us, take on our emotional weight.
I’m here for you because I am that person, and because you are that person for me.