Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It remains the one relation not bound by law, blood or money – but an unspoken agreement of love.– Hanya Yanagihara
I wonder why people come into my life and I wonder why they leave.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to come to terms with the fact that people walk in and out of our lives but I think that’s one of the hardest realities for me to accept. The feeling worsens when these “people” become “friends”. What am I supposed to do now? If friends come into my life and they’ve left a mark, why can’t they stay forever? How am I supposed to just stand by and watch while they leave? I wonder if this is an isolated experience because, on god, I’m trying to understand how we have to just accept and normalise that this is “life”; people coming and leaving, coming and leaving.
But maybe I’m greedy; wanting to hold on to memories. Maybe I’m just a little obsessed with the concept of forever. I think this is the reason why I have held onto writing and why I keep a little book of happiness where I note down at least one thing that made me happy each day. I worry sometimes that I might forget specific things or the memories become fuzzy. Writing lets me preserve these moments. There are some memories that would make me very sad if I were to ever forget them; the enchantment of trying a cheese platter, the first time I didn’t fall when roller-skating, the childish joy of going to a waterpark. I think it’s important to be able to look back at memories and smile or laugh or cry at all the times where love was dancing right in front of my eyes. And of course, the friends that I’ve encountered along the way have played a part in this. My heart does a loop de loop when I remember the time my coworker-friend came looking for me in the loo to say goodbye on his last day because we might never see each other again, or the time my best friend came to bring me a birthday cake at midnight or the way my high school buddy wrapped his arm around my waist as we walked and talked about nothing and everything.
As I look back at these memories, I think of all the friends I’ve loved before. Yes, “loved”. Not the let’s-drop-everything-and-ride-off-into-the-sunset-while-snogging kind of love though. While that’s quite nice too, it’s an entirely different thing, mind you. Finding love in a friendship is both weird and magical and you don’t encounter it very often in life. It’s not the same as the love found in a relationship but it is every bit as heartbreaking when the friendship dies.
I hope this essay doesn’t sound like a cry for help. I am not lonely nor am I incapable of being by myself. I’m rather good at being alone and believe me, I really do enjoy my own company and doing things or going places by myself. It’s quite liberating. But every once in a while, you listen to a new song, or try an exciting new dish or see an absurd video and you’d like to share this piece of yourself with someone else. And it’s not just about sharing, it’s also learning about the other person as well. To my friends that have come and gone, I loved learning things about you; your quirks and your styles and your expressions. I’m just sorry that I didn’t get the time to learn more.
So, this is to all the friends I’ve loved before.
(To maintain some degree of privacy, all the names used are not real).
To Champagne Boy,
I remember the first time we met; it involved The Smurfs which was (oddly?) fitting since I like blue and you like movies. That’s the thing I remember most about you; your love for movies. I liked listening to you talk about it; you always sounded quite passionate and I hoped you would go to film school. (I wonder what you think of Cats, the 2019 version. I liked it). You held a certain level of charisma and suaveness which was quite unusual yet refreshing for a boy at our age. Your sophistication and snarkiness was probably why I enjoyed our conversations about movies and food or just about things in general. Also, you noticed things. You pointed out to me things about me that even I hadn’t realised. It feels special to be known. It feels almost like another love language.
To Grape Girl,
I remember feeling important because you were popular at our age and you asked me to accompany you for walks around the school. I remember the time you told another classmate to shut up because they were laughing as I was giving a presentation in front of the class. I remember that you were one of the very few friends that I could have intimate conversations with. I remember that you became my friend when I didn’t have many at all.
But I also remember how hurt I felt when you described me as “just someone who followed you around”. It made me feel replaceable and that’s when our friendship began to drift apart. I think it was partly my fault as I was much more reserved and quiet back then; I wasn’t quite sure who I was or what to say in a conversation. I’m less reserved now (I think).
To Sticker Boy,
Everyone knows that the best is saved for last but, to keep you humble, I have to remind you that you’re probably not the last good friend I’ll meet.
We worked at the same place and I saw you once or twice but I had no intention of talking to you (even though I was mildly curious) as I’m not the type to initiate a conversation with a stranger. I left it at that.
As luck would have it, a few days later, I was tasked with inventory in the basement and there you were, tasked with the same job. You were approachable and friendly from your handshake to your eyes. You made me feel really comfortable and I rarely experience that with a person I’d just met. With you, I wasn’t too quiet.
There was an afterglow that always lingered after you left; the feeling of being wanted, whether as a friend, a companion, or just someone to talk to. I felt it when you said you’d change your shift so we could work together (even though my job was harder). I felt it when you said you’d come look for me after your shift ended so we could talk for a little longer. I felt it when you asked for help calculating a discount, because you remembered I studied money.
What the heck is your secret? I remember thinking “Wow! Here’s someone who’s so confident and likeable and obviously knows what he wants to do in life.” I was euphoric when you said you wanted to hang out with me because I definitely liked you as a friend.
You disappeared after we both left our jobs because of other commitments and it made me big sad. Of course, I knew you were busy but I think I thought you wouldn’t have let something as trivial as distance or time put an end to our friendship. I know I wouldn’t have.
Regardless, you taught me to be more open with people and to seize the moment, so thank you for that. I thought I’d have years to get to know you, but now I’ll just have to remember you as you were; tan jackets, finger-guns, god-awful handwriting, strange plants and stickers stuck on skin.
To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend.– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I will not forget you, old friends. Or maybe it’s more like I can’t forget you. How can I, when I see pieces of you in myself? I see it in the phrases I use, because I had a friend who used it first and I loved it so much. I see it in the perfume scent I adore, because I had a friend who first gifted me a bottle for Christmas. I see it in the way my knees still go weak for green grapes, because I had a friend who shared hers with me on a school day.
Yes, watching a friendship die is heartbreaking. You’re left with all these memories and knowledge of another person that really is quite useless because you don’t talk anymore. What makes it worse is not knowing why we parted the way we did. I think distance is a big nasty thing because it lets other big nasty things like jobs and school and responsibilities slither in. So promises to meet up became promises to call. And promises to call became promises to text. And promises to text became… nothing.
The theme for this month is “Desire”, but while writing, I wasn’t entirely sure whether my piece is a “desire to rekindle a forgotten friendship” or just a “desire for closure”. Don’t we all want to know how a story ends?
But maybe our stories haven’t ended? Maybe we’ll meet again someday? If we do, let’s not pretend to be strangers, okay?
Or maybe I’m trying to water long-dead flowers? Maybe I’m digging up old graves? So, if this ends up being our last goodbye, then I’ll remember our friendship, not with the dark greys of sadness, but with the golden rays of happiness. And, I won’t lie, even as time forces its way between us, I shall still miss you sometimes. I wondered if I would be more at peace if we had remained strangers but I realised that a world in which I’d never met you is a world I definitely don’t want to live in. I read somewhere once that friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. You stayed for a season, but at one point, I wished you would have stayed for a lifetime. There is something so pure and wholesome about knowing that a friend is someone who likes you for being you. I just think it’s really nice to have a friend.