friendship./Paulo Otávio

Coming Late to Friendship

I can probably count on a mutated hand the number of true friends I had up until the age of about 27: I experienced the same fleeting glimpse of friendship in my mid-20s as I did in my early teens. I finished high school with four people who I knew would have stuck by me, and another two more over the next seven years. As these things happen, we drifted apart; one by one, as I grew older, leaving friends behind like one does clothes on arriving home from work — a sock here, a shirt here, until one reaches the shower naked.

To be sure, my personality has never been one that either relished making new friends or was very good at sustaining friendships. In fact, it comes as quite a surprise that I have any friends today! Spend five minutes with me in any situation and you will reach the sixth minute knowing I am an introvert. I’m somewhat socially-inept, and as a full-time writer working from home, the word “hermit” has been attached to me more than once. I recharge by myself — a stereotype of introversion if ever one existed —and run out of extroversion-energy dependent entirely upon how many days I’ve had by myself leading up.

But somehow, by some miraculous fluke of nature — or by God’s grace, depending on how you see these things — I have spent the last few years of my life surrounded by friends who I not only care for, but beyond all reason, appear to care for me in return. I can still be found gazing off into the distance after a church service, alone and unwilling to engage with anyone I don’t consider “close”. It’s a bad habbit, I’m sure, but one I almost have no inclination to break. If my close friends are all involved in their own conversations, or are simply not there, then I don’t know what to do. Clock it up to years without friends (and a few years being bullied, alone, or a confusing mixture of the two), but I have no idea what to do in those situations.

But this week has reminded me in two quite unconnected instances that I have friends — both close and less-so — who don’t appear to mind me.

Instance #1

Facebook Chat has been a wonderful addition to my life, allowing me the ability to communicate with people without the horrifying need to fill every moment of silence, read their every emotional expression, and convince myself that they actually do want to talk to me. If I see a “Seen Tues 08:36” but no reply is forthcoming, then I know the conversation is over and I can move on. If I see those little dots bouncing happily around in the chat window, I know it will continue for at least one more exchange.

But even so, one can still be surprised by those who are willing to message.

When my phone buzzed angrily at me earlier this week I looked down and saw a lengthy chat message from a friend in her early-20s. She is not one to regularly talk to me, so I immediately assumed she had messaged the wrong person (and I’m still not entirely certain). But, as simple as I have no doubt she imagines it, her brief message lifted my heart. Apparently, hearing someone at university who happened to sound like me discussing the pros and cons of One Direction, she had to turn her head and confirm it wasn’t me — and then had to share the humorous event with me. This might sound like not much to you, but to me — eternally alone, or so I sometimes feel life used to be — it was a reminder that not only am I not alone, but that friendship of any shape, size, or quantity is a blessing, and one to be cherished.

Instance #2

Fast forward a couple of days, and I found myself in conversation (face to face, this time) with one of my best friends. She and her husband have recently bought a house, and in describing the momentous event, decision, and result to me, she took the time to knock my socks off (figuratively — though, seeing this post, she’ll no doubt attempt something more literal in the near-future). She probably doesn’t even realise she had done so, but to me, I spent the next few hours inordinately happy.

Amidst all the details, minutia, stress, and paperwork accompanying the purchase of a house, it appears that I came to mind.

Amidst the litany of reasons they should buy this particular house, the real-estate agent was all too happy to remind them both that the train station is only a klick away — relatively useless information for two car-happy and -reliant adults. Except that I, even though I’ve reached the ripe old age of 30 (hovering dangerously close to 31), refuse to acquire a license by which to transport myself anywhere — leaving me utterly reliant upon public transport (and the good graces of my friends) — a thought which, in some part of her mind, made her realise that the nearby train station will allow me to visit them.

I do not say any of this to brag, seek pity, or any possible variation thereinbetween. Rather, I am a writer at heart, and I have no better way to say thank you to those involved — and to all my friends — than to write of how much it means to me that you care, and that you are willing to allow me to care for you as well.

So to bring this to a close, let me break character for a moment, and simply say

thank you

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