I've just finished reading Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett's fascinating account of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, the author of Autobiography of a Face who committed suicide in 2002. It's an amazingly honest book about a problematic and possibly dysfunctional friendship. Patchett keeps referring to herself as the ant who works hard to achieve her own goals and also keep Grealy's life running relatively smoothly, while Grealy is the grasshopper dancing the night away and allowing Patchett to pick up the pieces (or clean up the vomit or pay the bills).
For instance, toward the end of Lucy's life when everything is pretty much falling apart (failed surgeries, eviction, drug addiction), Patchett tries to fix things: "I ordered Tupperware. It was my own special brand of insanity that made me think the trials of Lucy's life could somehow be eased by the order of Tupperware."
On a scale from "ant" to "grasshopper," I'm with Patchett, firmly clinging to the ant end of the continuum and ordering the Tupperware. I'm not sure how long I would put up with a friend who expected me to clean her closets; I suppose it would depend on the quality of the friendship. I confess that I lost patience with the brilliant Lucy Grealy more than once, but I also lost patience with Patchett for accepting her role. It was like a horror movie: I kept wanting to call out, "Don't go in the closet! It'll eat you alive!"
In a book full of pain, probably the most painful part for me was Patchett's willingness to allow this friendship to eat her alive. It makes a great story, but what a life! It makes me want to send Patchett a huge order of Tupperware.