Female friendship is something I’m no stranger to writing about. I’ll fully admit that making and keeping friends is not something I’m very good at, especially not with other women. It’s something which makes me feel deficient, like that natural part of me that I should just be born with is actually missing from my body. Although I’m sure there must be others who struggle in this regard, I’ve never met them. I’ve never found it difficult to find romantic connections, my professional life is enviable and I’d say I’m probably a solid 7 when I make an effort with my appearance, but I’d exchange all of this in a heartbeat for the ability to naturally make and keep female friends.
Endless mental debating on what might be the reason for my struggle has highlighted to me that I actually have no interest in acquaintances. I’m a ride-or-die. I love my friends wholeheartedly like I would a partner. I completely emotionally invest. Therefore, when a friendship does come to an end, whether that be in the wake of a Jeremy Kyle-worthy betrayal or if it just peters out, it leaves an unshakable feeling of loss, as though there’s a hole now in my life that I have to swerve as I navigate day to day life.
Well, thanks to lockdown, one of those holes is no longer. One of my closest friends is back in my life and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s our story…
We met about eight years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday brunch. We weren’t sat together, but we gravitated towards each other because it came to light how much we had in common. We hit it off so warmly that after the brunch we went on for more drinks just the two of us. From that day, we were inseparable. I helped her plan her mum’s fiftieth, she became an honorary house mate amongst the friends I lived with and she was undeniably one of my closest relationships.
We didn’t even drift when I moved cities. We spoke most days, even if it was just a quick ‘you’ll never guess what just happened’ and we made as many plans to see each other as our budgets would allow.
However, about four years in there grew this uncomfortable feeling of uneasiness between us. I couldn’t put my finger on it or decipher why this awkwardness had manifested itself. I raised it with her, asking whether she felt the same, in the hope that we could scrub away whatever it was that had wedged itself between us. The conversation did not go to plan, perhaps down to a clumsy choice of words from me, or perhaps due to the fact that something illegible was in fact straining our friendship. Either way, the conversation left us both feeling dejected and wondering if we would be able to get back to how we were. Communication decreased noticeably from both sides and no plans were made to see each other.
A few months later someone close to me passed away. I was completely flawed by their unexpected death and felt like my life had been crushed. I didn’t immediately tell my friend what had happened, instead asking another friend to contact her to pass on the news and explain that I wouldn’t be contactable for a bit. I chose not to let her in because I was scared that if I let myself fall that she wouldn’t be there to catch me, which would have been irreversible confirmation that our friendship was over. At a time when I was already suffering a loss, I didn’t need another blow.
In the weeks that followed, I deep down hoped to hear from her, but no text or call ever came. One night after a bottle and a half of red, sat amongst empty McDonald’s boxes with tear tracks in my foundation, I rang her asking why she hadn’t been there for me. I could hear a lot of raucous noise in the background and deduced that she was out. Alcohol-fuelled rage burst through me. How could she have been out enjoying her life whilst here I was wondering how I was going to make it through another day or if I even wanted to. I demanded to know what I had done to make her choose not to be there at a time when I needed her most. She told me she’d not wanted to intrude, that she hadn’t been sure if I’d even wanted to hear from her given that things had grown sour between us and that she would of course have picked up the phone if I’d have called her asking for help. I didn’t know what I’d wanted her to say, but that hadn’t been it. I hung up the phone, waking up the next morning hoping that she’d ring me to talk. No such call came.
Nor did it come for three years.
Then, in the throes of the current global crisis, came a message.
“Saw this and it made me think of you.”
It was a meme of a hippo lying in exactly the same position I would lie in when we’d over-indulged with the takeaway. It made me laugh, that kind of laugh that warms you through to your fingertips. I messaged her back and within an hour we’d arranged to meet for a socially-distant coffee. I was so excited to see my friend, but was apprehensive as to whether it was going to be awkward. Would we discuss what went down between us? What went unsaid and what we would change if we could rewind? Or would we just leave the past in the past and start afresh. Either way, I was nervous and half expected her to cancel.
On the day we were scheduled to meet, she messaged me: “When you said ‘coffee’, you did actually mean cocktails, right?”. My heart fluttered. She was the exact same person I’d been friends with all those years ago and, evidently, she knew I was the same person I was back then too.
We had an amazing coffee date [read: cocktail date] together and reminisced until we were laughing with tears rolling playfully down our cheeks. We’ve seen each other several times since, I’ve even caught up with her dog and we speak nearly every day just like we used to. It’s as though we’ve just picked up exactly where we left off.
One day a couple of weeks ago when we were taking a break from throwing branches for her dog to fetch, she said completely out of the blue: “I’m really sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I honestly just didn’t know what was the right thing to do.”
I responded: “In all honesty, I was so low that whatever you’d done probably would’ve been wrong. You wouldn’t have been able to win.”
I asked why she’d popped up in my messages after so many years. She explained that lockdown had been such a reflective time and that the virus had highlighted how quickly life could just come to an end. She didn’t want to let something go that had meant a lot to her or not put her head above the parapet on the off-chance that I might shoot her down.
I don’t have the lexicon to do justice to how happy I am to have her back in my life. Although I only saw her last week, I’m glowing with excitement to spend this weekend with her. During our time apart we’ve grown, we’ve learned and we’ve acquired experiences that have shaped us, but we still fit into each other’s lives. I’m grateful for her and feel immeasurably lucky that she reached out, even if it did come in the form of a hippo meme.