Dear J

I learnt what “skid marks” were the hard way. I also lived with the most putrid, rotting fish fingers in the fridge – so pungent I caught a whiff of it on my robe after a hot shower in California. To be fair, I contributed to this lifestyle by allowing us to keep the leftover Chicken Masala in the microwave after a night out, still a superior alternative to the kebabs across the street. ‘Twas good whilst it lasted but we weren’t raving to it.

It’s not exactly socially acceptable to pee in the same room as another person, with the door open. I don’t usually let people listen to me pee either. So I think what we have is pretty special. There’s also no one else I’d rather be caught tatas out to the sun with but you, babe. Only in France.

And don’t even get me started on “when the day is winding down”. The onset of night is the beginning of delirium. We can get away with following a good looking man home (half joking), guffawing in tears in supermarkets, malls, parks, trains… We have left echoes of our joint existence in narrow lanes and bar corners. We are insufferable, but who can help it when you pronounce ‘Gare du Nord’ like that??

You are my saving grace on Moody Mornings, your positivity dampened only by scoundrels that demand you donate to them- the deaf, blind and mute. All of them hearing & speaking. You drag me away from hopeless conversations and you help me snag all the deals. Ask for the iPhone charger, you say, the hotel adapters, an umbrella, low sodium meals on the airplane. Where would I be without you? Soaking wet, wandering through the streets of Paris, lost, and dying from chronic high blood pressure, most likely. And I can’t thank you enough for trouble shooting my laptop and updating my phone so that I can upgrade my emoji usage. I have been waiting for a ‘crossed fingers’ pictogram for the longest time. You are my I.T Wiz, MY ROCK.

I am thankful that you’re always on my cycle: lazy-day bud one day, hiking and yoga bud the next. Wine buddy one day, I-would-rather-die-than-drink buddy the next. Thank you for listening to stories about the same guys over and over again. Thank you for seeing the best in me. And most of all, thank you for understanding that my God is my compass.

I am always glad to know you are near, your sandals thumping behind me.

Advertisements

F sleep

Any less than four hours of sleep and I am subhuman. Expressions fail to materialise, lips pressed into a hard line. I am unresponsive for the most part.

I cried on the way back from the Christmas party. It was cold, I was tired, and the thought of the trek in heels made me weak. I thought I hated her too. All of a sudden, I’m the better friend for bearing the brunt of her mood swings. I can’t wait to fly home and celebrate Christmas with my true friends. Maybe I won’t ever come back. Fuck social pain. Fuck irrationality.

I didn’t play White Elephant because I didn’t get a gift for anyone; I watched on the sofa with a heavy belly and a drowsy head. Sick from all the sugar I ate to compensate for the sluggishness. This. is. Defeat.

I dredged up all the frustrations in my heart and threw them at her in my mind. Then I forced myself to remember that I am loved with unfathomable depth. That He was loved least by men. That I can learn to love without expectation.

(sleep erases the accusations)

I slept in, skipped class this morning and drank some coffee. My skin is amazing because ovulation. Music is wonderful. My research investigator called me an Honour Student. My friend invited me to free-load off her sorority for lunch and my schedule is working itself out. It’s like magic.

I pledge to take better care of myself, to be invested in what my friends are doing and write more. Today is a better day.

A lot like love

My friend and I like to check up on each other’s days. What was the theme of your day, the week, the month? What were the highlights, things that inspired you, things that annoyed you?

It’s a kind of love when you’re interested to know the mundane details- except they’re no longer mundane. It’s envisioning another world. To love is to long to know a person’s mind and to delight in its contents. Everything that has shaped them becomes endearing, be it Sailor Moon or crushes on Joe Jonas.

Find people who help you find yourself. And be that person for them, too.

Umbrella

I like how you look as though you’re fighting a smile when I talk. Jaws clench; a tremor across your lips. Your head moves infinitesimally, so as to suggest a nod. I felt this the first time we met.

I wonder how my sober self compares to the person sat on the edge of your mattress that night. I have come to conclude that first meetings should not happen when intoxicated. The bed frames were broken- a testament to the many strangers who had passed through. I too needed an escape from the chattering horde. So, I took refuge in your room and we passed the joint.

With heavy lids, we were introduced. And it was exquisite, the way you listened, the way a part of you seemed to agree with me. I told you that I’m anxious about making choices, that I hate how belonging demands exclusivity. How far can I go, how different can I be before I’m no longer a part of your circle? Is it possible to be bound together by one thing- by drugs even? Whatever my doubts were about the rest of the party, you assured me that I was worth getting to know. You made me feel like you had chosen to let me – a stranger- under your umbrella. With your blessing, any choice I made would be the right one.

We met up for coffee in broad daylight, tentative at first. Maybe you had changed your mind. Maybe I’m different today. You watched me drink coffee because you had already eaten, and my insecurities dissolved as you apologized for being distracted by the sunset behind my head. You were more articulate but as sincere as I had remembered.

After many failed attempts at meeting over spring, I saw you at a party. I didn’t expect to see you there and I almost didn’t recognize you. You had cut your hair and it suited you better; you looked less effeminate. I wasn’t prepared for the excitement that came over me. See, I’m over getting hammered. The stupidity, the temporary friends. But you didn’t feel like a forgettable remark, a shot of vodka somewhere between shot number five and whatever comes after. You weren’t a handshake and a name, nor a pawn in the networking game. There we stood by the door, preferring second-hand smoke to the reek of alcohol. Had I seen the creepy bathroom yet? The one with doll heads, ceiling collages and poor lighting? Yes, it was weird and I’m going to hold the pee in tonight. Besides learning about our shared pyromaniacal tendencies, I learned that I’ve finally found an American who can banter. What a model citizen you are, lighting cigarettes and opening doors. Although we had agreed upon tying me to the top of your car for a death-defying ride (since the seats were taken), I hopped onto the bus and you drove drunk people home (how responsible). It was a miserable ride back.

You’re going to leave the country for six months. I get it, you’re not sentimental. You worry about rambling and apparently your thoughts are hard to follow. But I need you to know that it doesn’t matter and that I am glad I met you (and scared this is the end).

Soul food

You beam at me and I can’t help but return the grin. It took us one exchange of snaps to get straight to the ugly selfies. We took that walk to get Boba and you told me about your best friends from back home. We loaded our straws and shot tapioca balls as far as we could and gave each other looks as a muttering homeless man slowed by our bench. Maybe we’ll start a monthly tradition: buy food for the homeless in Westwood.

You’re brave. Creepy doll in the Halloween store? You batted the shit out of her hair. Hilarious. First time on a penny? You slid backwards and met the ground. But you did it again. You’re put-together and I admire you for that talent. I admire you even more for being what I am not.

You have an uncanny ability to bring out the best in others. I don’t understand how you see me the way you do, how you talk about me to the people you meet and even to your friends. I don’t get it but I am thankful. You are a certain kind of exquisite- it’s easy to be shrouded in your radiance. Your energy. Your acceptance. Thank God you were in the ice-breaker circle at an early orientation session and thank God you like my accent.

Love is the best way

Friendship, I have learned, is conditioned. At a certain point, too much is too much and the defence mechanism kicks in: you’re not good for me, I hate being hurt and I will no longer have you. You care too much or too little, expect more than is possible or accept everything. The struggle takes its toll. But I want to learn to love when it is difficult to love.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you’.
– John Green

Thanks John, that pretty much sums up my attitude towards friendships. If friends are the family you choose, love them like you would your family. Hurt me, neglect me for a while, but as long as you love me- even when it seems too late, I’ll be here. I will welcome you with open arms, whenever you want to come home, because that’s the kind of love I wouldn’t deserve, but would love to receive. That is the love of Jesus Christ and that is how I want to love.

‘…Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong’. (1 Corinthians 13:5)
‘If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him’. (13:7)

‘You imitated us and the Lord; and even though you suffered much, you received the message with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.’ 
1 Thessalonians 1:7

Now I see

‘Feelings linger where thoughts do not’ (Kathleen Taylor). Even if you say you don’t care, make up your mind to move on, your heart cannot be separated from the person it is entangled to. When you’ve grown up with someone and you’ve spent a great deal of time with them, your feelings won’t let them go. But what I fear now is that there will be no pain of separation when I leave my sister for university.
I didn’t care when my brother left because nothing changed; we had grown apart long ago. My parents don’t speak to me much and I don’t mind, because it’s normal, I’m used to it, it doesn’t hurt. All this time, I’ve sworn to myself that I’d never let this happen with my children. But it’s been happening with my very own sister and I hadn’t realized it until now. When I go, will there not be a difference? I’m barely home because for years I’ve chosen my friends over my sister. Whilst she was at home with no one to play with, I’d be sleeping over at someone’s house.

She once wrote me an email back in 2009 saying:
YOU ARE SO MEAN YOU ALWAYS COME TO PEOPLES HOUSES WITHOUT TELLING ME. DO I HAVE TO BE BY MYSELF WITH ONLY EKA (my helper at the time) WHEN YOU ARE NOT HERE!? (EVERYDAY, ALMOST -.-)

I responded with a belligerent email because I thought she didn’t have a right to be mad at me. She did though, and I’d be happier if she still was. Now that she’s not mad, she doesn’t mind. That is the worst thing. We are used to not being around each other. We are used to distance and she is used to being lonely. Now, I have a week and the rest of my life to make up for it.

Friends again

“What are you doing later?”
“I don’t know, let’s go chill on your roof”.
It had been years since we were close enough to do something like that. I made the suggestion and didn’t think twice about it— what else did I have to do so early in the morning? As the taxi rode away and we left the gentle buzz of people on the streets, I thought how strange it was that we’d do this on such a random night. It seemed so out of context, like a superficial, unofficial reunion. Were we just playing nice? But here’s the thing: it wasn’t awkward. Far from it, actually.
As I munched on my kebab and we laughed at each other’s quirks, it felt so easy. When we got to your house, we took the lift up and I was surprised that I could remember which stairs to take. We climbed the ladder to the upper part of the roof- where I’m sure people aren’t supposed to sit, but we went right up to the edge, where a ledge provided us a false sense of security.
I finished the kebab and tossed it on the floor. We played music through your iPhone speakers and danced with each other. I didn’t care that I looked retarded because we both were. I watched your fit of seizures to the beat of Tove Lo’s song, against the backdrop of the buildings that stretched into the distance. I could see our Old School’s field. Street lamps and cars winked and scattered. The green of football pitches on television screens could be seen through people’s windows (World Cup) as the sun began to creep out from the clouds.
We sang and you rapped obnoxiously, imitating Drake with your flipping hands. Then we settled down and I blurted out all these questions whilst you lay on your back. You said you’d changed for the better. And I told you how sometimes, I can’t enjoy myself because I’m always thinking what if? Is this what I want to be doing with my time? Am I wasting my life? What am I supposed to do, who am I supposed to be with to make this worthwhile? But I realized I was so content to just be there, on the roof at six in the morning. It was as if we could just pick up where we left off. Before we stopped talking, before we reverted to friends who only chat at parties. It was weird how easy it was to talk to you. I kept thinking how crazy it was- how so much has changed, though give us a moment, a night like this and we can relive our friendship. Can this last? You said to me: let’s chill sometime, and that you thought it was my fault we stopped hanging out. It suddenly seemed a shame how we’d drifted, because when it happens gradually, it’s really not so bad.
You waited with me until I caught a cab, holding an umbrella above our heads as it started to rain. And I felt like we were really friends again.

Wouldn’t change a thing

Everything was just easy with you. No pretence, no need to impress. I could roll out of bed and I’d let you stare at me full in the face, for example, and that to me would indicate the platonic nature of our friendship. How much of what we were essentially a friendship? Was it all fuelled by the feelings you had for me? I could blame myself for acting a certain way but doing so would be foolish. Juvenile even. I’m mature enough to know that what matters is that I behaved in a way that was natural to me- untainted, uninhibited and out of love (the friendly, familial kind). It’s not my fault. I never wanted your feelings. But if my girl friends were guys, I’d probably be in love with them… So maybe it’s impossible for a guy and a girl to be as close as we were without something going wrong. If we both kept a little more distance perhaps things would’ve been different. But then again, I’d have missed out on so many great things and beautiful memories. You were the guy I called when I didn’t have my girl besties, and I remember saying and realizing in that one moment: I wouldn’t have known what to do without you.

Your oversized hoodie

I wore your massive hoodie today. I spent the whole day just wrapped in your grey jumper with the sleeves bunched at my wrists. I was surprised I still had it and almost forgot it was yours. Almost. But I still don’t want to give it back. I hope you don’t mind. It makes me smile with the memory of how you lent it to me. It was raining, I was wet and cold, and you made me take it. You used to do that a  lot. Look after me, I mean.

Your cologne has long since disappeared and that’s okay (you used to go overboard with the spraying anyway). I didn’t love you that way- I don’t need that scent as a reminder to sustain me. You were my best friend and thinking about the state of our friendship used to bring me a wave of sadness. A deep, crushing regret, a tug at the heart. I missed you so much it hurt. I remember thinking that it was so difficult to describe it- that nothing was synonymous with the pain of missing you. Sounds melodramatic, seeing as I barely ever think about you now. We’ve grown up, you’ve changed, and I’ve accepted the distance between us. I was doing very well with not giving the past much acknowledgement up until I saw your hoodie hanging in my closet today.

I remember how I used to call you whenever I was bored or upset about anything. You’d listen, say funny things, tell me lame jokes, and call me ‘nub’ amongst other rude things. You always knew when I was about to cry and you’d panic and tell me not to, which would make me cry harder. But you were so sincere I could never be upset for long (when I was with you, at least). We’d be on the phone late at night rehashing details of our primary school lives and offering advice on each other’s crushes. You’d ask me to meet you and you’d always have a packet of 5 gum (passion fruit flavoured because it was my favourite) and a bottle of green tea waiting for me. When you found out about your grandmother I hugged you and bought you a mango smoothie and I wanted to cry as well. We walked a lot (which I loved) and I trusted in your so-called A* geography skills which you prided yourself on. We talked about parallel universes by the fish pond and you showed me how you viewed the world. We’d go to the park and I’d sit on the floor as you sat on the swings. I still remember how you got your bum stuck in a baby swing and how you carted me around Toys-R-Us, laughing as you drove me into the displays. We watched tonnes of movies and threw pop-corn at the audiences. You’d always offer to switch places with me if the guy in front of me had a big head that blocked the screen. I endured going to Japanese restaurants all the time and you constantly ridiculed my height. You always insisted on bringing me home before leaving yourself. We rarely ever fought and when we did, we’d joke about it immediately and say that it was impossible to stay mad at each other. You’d offer me your hands (which were always ridiculously warm) when I was cold and you always said I was a better friend to you than you were to me. But I was lucky to have someone like you in my life. I was fully myself around you- a guy, and I loved you wholly as a person. At one point, when we were by the harbour, you said “here’s the plan. When I’m 25 or 30 we’re going to visit each other. No matter where I am or what’s happening in my life, okay?” I said “okay” and we shook on it. I genuinely believed you’d stick around. But I don’t blame you. I understand. I just wish you knew how much you meant to me, though no post will be able to express how many memories I adore and how much I cherish the very fact that I ever knew you. You’re different now (aren’t we all?) but I’m still sorry we are the way we are. And I guess I’m sorry for keeping your hoodie. You never had a problem with my sentimentality so excuse me but I’m not quite ready to give it back.