From the time you are born, you are encouraged to make friends with those around you. Well, with the right kind of people, of course. Which means you are forced to try and get along with random individuals simply because you were born near them, or went to school with them, or were related to them. No discussion, no compatibility tests, just a lot of “now dear, smile, and go say hello”.
So you sigh and go play with these people and very soon realise just how many ghelsappas you are surrounded by. At which point, you either:
a) Tolerate their company (because we should be nice to the less fortunate);
b) Decide you’re going to sit with a book or a distant look (giving you the aura of being a Serious Thinker, which also makesg it more likely you will get away with not having done your homework, because hello, Major Philosophical Contemplation going on here);
c) Make such a nuisance of yourself that your parents are forced to relocate (without being such a nuisance that they pack you off to boarding school);
And this dreary business goes on until you’re old enough or confident enough to decide that you’re going to become friends only with people you want to be friends with. A certitude that usually occurs to most of us when we get to college. And it is there that you wander around and take part in all these events and become a member of all these clubs and sit and listen to random conversations, and find yourself and discover the kind of friends you want to have.
And you stick to that model – you decide which of your colleagues you want to go out hiking with, you decide which of your new neighbours you want to invite over for board-games on a Sunday afternoon, you decide which of the four gardening clubs you want to become a member of. And so you find amazing people, and you learn so much and you give so much, and you share and you bond and you help out and you feel contented that there’s somebody you can call at 3am on a Wednesday simply because they get you. And you think it’s all good.
You lose them.
You lose them to the growing complexity of life.
You lose them to education in new lands, jobs in other cities, new lives in other countries.
You lose them to relationships and babies and taking care of your family.
You lose them to all the new people you meet, and all the new friends you make.
You lose them to the increasingly narrow slivers of time we all seem to survive by.
You try and keep in touch, you really do, but it’s so hard because we forget that in this world where we can keep in touch so easily, we can keep in touch with everybody so easily. And there are so many people to keep in touch with. And so you all end up on some online network, posting pithy announcements of the mundane occurrences and thoughts in your life, trying hard to pretend that you’re still holding actual conversations.
You look at their photographs, and you realise you haven’t met them in a decade. You haven’t heard their voice, haven’t felt their smile, haven’t hugged them or shared their laughter. And you try hard to hold onto the memories that slowly seep away, always wondering how much you’ve forgotten.
And you mourn for them, these strangers who bear the names and faces of those you knew, and you wonder if they do too.