Now, more than ever, those friendships of mine seem much more precious.
I know that we can promise to write, send emails, pay visits, arrange meetups for when I come home, but deep down inside I wonder how many faces will really stay with me. How many people have the time to reply to an email straight away? Who wants to chat on Skype for an hour when they’d much rather catch up on episodes of The IT Crowd after a long day at work? Do I really expect them to rearrange their lives for me when I come back to their homeland for a meagre week or two?
Nowadays my job is to soak up as much as I can from every one of them so that the beauty in their hearts stays with me as I ramble on with my excursions to faraway lands.
Good things come in threes.
Yesterday N and I spoke for the first time in months. Realising that whatever trivial occurence that had contributed to the demise of our friendship earlier in the year no longer seemed important, we put our differences aside and apologised. He was the bigger man and came forward first. I, usually the stubborn one, forgave and also offered my atonement. Life’s too short to waste your energy on quarrels.
I feel closer to A again, too. The distance that was growing between us had somehow soured our friendship, threatening to turn the blossom into weeds. She’s the living poet in my world. The bohème I look up to as though she were a figure from sixty years ago that I could only dream of knowing. But I do know her. And I love her. And I realise that having her in my heart is what I need to feel inspired.
And then there’s him. The best friend. The former love of my life.
Yesterday was the day we’d meet up and spend time together, one-on-one, for the first time in nearly a year. All previous attempts had left bitter tastes in our mouth with conversations leading to questions of what happened between us? and the inevitable flow of tears and tantrums. We’d finally succumbed to our technology-based relationship, using computers and phones to stand in the way of any physical contact and upset that might occur.
But we wanted to end that. We needed to see each other.
My nerves got the better of me on the train ride over as I picked the lavender varnish from my nails, stared at an empty page in my book without blinking, sighed over the curls in my hair that I’d taken so long to fix and were now long blown away by the gales outside. I still had no idea how to feel about him.
Our first activities of the afternoon saw us join a group of his work friends, trekking half way across the city and up a million mountains to contribute towards their art project.
It was dark when we came down that hill again. And, finally, we were alone.
The Thursday night partygoers began to pour out into the city, clad in nothing more than underwear and fake tan, ready to drink away their sorrows and find a tongue to suck on in the dark corner of a nightclub.
I had a headache.
He offered to take me to his house where we could eat, rest and get out of the cold. I was unsure. It wasn’t the thought of his house that scared me. Nor was it the thought of facing his family after what I’d done to their son. It was the idea of being alone with him. I wasn’t comfortable because I still didn’t know how to feel.
Nevertheless I found myself joining him in the back of a taxi, staring out of the window to keep my tears hidden.
But he saw me tremble and rested his hand on mine and I knew then that all I had to do was say the word and we’d turn around.
But I remained silent and followed him to his house where we were greeted by his sleepy-eyed family with open arms, feasted on whatever leftovers we could find in the fridge and poured ourselves a glass of Disaronno each.
And then we talked.
We talked about our recent relationships. We talked about our jobs.
We talked about poets and musicians and films.
We talked about politics and elections and the economy.
We talked about history and faraway countries.
We talked about religion and controversy and revolutions happening around the world.
We talked about our families.
We talked about us.
And before we knew it, it was 4.40am and the sky was no longer black.
We crawled into bed, me clad in his oversized Rolling Stones shorts and Greenday top that hung on me like a sack, and spooned until we fell asleep.
In the afternoon, he walked me to my bus stop and gave me just one soft and tender kiss.
A kiss that sealed our friendship and put away any confusion lurking in the back of our minds. A kiss that waved goodbye to the lovers we were back then and opened the door for who we are now.
I’ll always love him and have him in my heart. I’ll always protect him and he’ll always be my pillar of strength.
He’s the one who urges me to go forth and find myself in those distant lands. He’s the one who stimulates me intellectually more than anyone else I’ve ever met.
He’s my best friend and always will be.