I glance across the table as you take a sip of your drink. Red wine of course; we’re adults now. We catch up as we swap stories of our adventures and glee, of beer fear and the hangover anxiety that claimed you last week… As it does after every heavy night. Laughter engulfs your face from your mouth to your eyes like a thief of sadness, and his merry men take over mine too. I bask in this happiness, the reliable waterfall of sun rays between us as we reminisce on old times and dream about the future ahead. This is joy. This is friendship.
I have spent so much of my time joking about having no friends, feeding into this gag of being alone and offering myself up as the jester. Yet somewhere amongst all the satire, I have regretfully bypassed the ones who are right there. The ones who have always been there. I have, perhaps selfishly (most definitely selfishly) watched my friends grow whilst expecting our friendship to stay the same. As priorities change, people change too. This is something I did not understand, or perhaps more something I did not want to understand. Why don’t you want to come and get drunk with me last-minute, on a school night, when you have an exam tomorrow? I convinced myself that my friends were dispersing, abandoning me to enthral themselves in lives of boyfriends, and jobs, and new friends, and new cities. In lives where I was not invited. But it seems the invites were always there, I just forgot to RSVP.
They say if a friendship lasts 7 years, then you will be friends forever. I have several of these friendships. I have friendships that span nearly twenty years, built on the basis of fear as a six-year-old in an unfamiliar town and grown as my own personal comfort blanket of warmth and familiarity. I have friendships that started on the cusp of my freedom, formed at a burly block of student flats and made between JÃ¤ger Bombs and the-day-after-the-night-before chats where we would all accumulate in one bed to eat pizza. I have friendships that grew from a friend-of-a friend to a deep intimacy and companionship of understanding where no secret, or story, is withheld. I have friendships that originated in an old town pub, between 80s hits, Cointreau, and a love for getting hammered. I have friendships that have formed from bra-shedding, nipple flashing and a complacency for each other’s nudeness. I have friendships that are less than 7 years old, but feel like they have been there my whole life. I have friendships founded at work, and tested in a Karaoke bar in New York. I have friendships I can call upon in my hour of need, be it for a drag show companion, a whinge down the phone, or a prosecco-gulping Saturday afternoon, to complain a little bit more. I have friendships with those who are older and wiser, whose life experiences both inspire and galvanise me. I have friendships where months and years pass by without seeing each other, yet we always seem to pick up where we left off. I have friendships that have seen me cry over a boy and overlooked as I ignored their advice, friends who were still there to hug me a week later when I cried again over the exact same thing. I have friendships which have made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe and cry through tears of happiness and disbelief that these are my people, and these are mine. I have friendships.
I don’t know if this appreciation for those around you grows as you get older, but as I roll in after another night out, another quick drink, another walk with the dog, another VK, another city break or another shared tray of chips; the completeness which runs through me feels like an ever-expanding infinity pool, with no end in sight. A text, a WhatsApp, a ‘liked’ picture or a voice note. Every expression of affection soars through me like a bird of prey and sometimes, usually after three tequila shots, I feel like I could fly. The high you get from receiving love from someone for whom you care so deeply is a drug I wish I could be addicted to forever. The feeling of love from likeminded people, from your chosen ones, from your extended family, is a love which I hope will never disappear. As your lives change, I hope I will change with them, adapting and bending to keep these special people entwined within this new family tree I’ve grown. I may not have enough friends to fill a church, but I have enough friends who fill my soul. And so, I would just like to say to you and to everyone here, “Gracias para vivar en la casa, en la escuelas, en… en la azul… ‘markada’. Tienes con ‘bibir’ en las Fortuashla?” You are my best friends, and I treasure you. ??