She got home from school, huffed a long sigh, and slumped on her bed, exhausted. Sighing again, she pulled her English folder out of her rucksack, and settled on the bed. She stared at the title of her practice exam paper, and reluctantly tore a piece of paper from her notepad. ‘Write a page about what friendship means to you, in any format you wish.’ Smiling slightly, she recalled her English teacher, and his words of disgust that this had actually been an exam question. He had then gone on a long tangent, but they all tuned out, amused by his impassioned rant-turned-midlife-crisis.
A buzz from her pocket shook her from her thoughts, and she drew her phone out, lips curling upwards at the message from James sent to one of the many group chats she occupied.
Starman to Oxbridge Strip School and Studios: ugh this Eng Language business is going to kill me
She swiftly replied in agreement, but put her pen to the page and began to write. Figuring, the ‘any format you wish’ extended to a short piece of narrative, she proceeded to do what she’d always done best – write a story.
“The lamp cast a lazy glow about the room, its warmth inviting and haze never faltering in the wake of the friends’ laughter. And laugh, they did. Draped over various frayed sofas, the company was easy, and the laughs free. They were tinged with the giggles brought on by the consumption of one-too-many, perhaps, but their content was still apparent. One of them, curled into the crook of her friend Jack’s neck, breathing him in, marvelled in this.
She talked to him about her lingering grief, and it felt safe. He talked to her about his musings on his sexuality, and it felt safe.
They shared glances over at the sofa opposite, where their two other friends were squashed up similarly, and they whispered about how free Lloyd looked without all of his walls locking him away – and about how content Jordan looked away from all the turmoil that she kept so hidden. For this was friendship; vulnerable, but safe, and warm.
And when all four of them bundled onto one sofa, and held each other close under the lamp’s hazy glow, laughing at the old episodes of Doctor Who on the TV (“Hey guys, look at those edgy camera angles.” “So 2007, I’m crying!”), there was understanding. There was understanding, and there was safety, and there was a fondness in their hearts that pierced through the drunken fog and heady smell of Lloyd’s cologne, and lingered long after the fuzziness in their heads dissipated. And if the rich smell of a forest in the early morning alerted the friends of Lloyd’s presence before he loped into their sight, then none of them minded. In fact, it felt like a breath of sanity – a moment of clarity in their otherwise cluttered and burdened lives – although none of them would admit this aloud.”
Her pen stuttered on the page as another buzz came from the phone beside her.
King Jamez to Obama: You’re writing about Saturday night for the Eng thing aren’t you
It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, and she rolled her eyes at her own predictability, before tapping out a reply.
Obama to King Jamez: how did you even guess
King Jamez to Obama: You know we were all drunk right?
Obama to King Jamez: well… yes
King Jamez to Obama: Dude. You’re gonna get us lynched
Obama to King Jamez: Dude. I changed our names, and besides, if they pull me up on the apparent illegality of underage drinking, I’ll just point out that it’s purely a work of fiction
King Jamez to Obama: Fine, fine, just no mushy stuff
Obama to King Jamez: no can do my tiny bean, you’re such a cuddly drunk
King Jamez to Obama: Oh please, like you weren’t
Obama to King Jamez: ssh, we all were, now let me get on with it
King Jamez to Obama: Fine, leaving the genius to work
Tossing her phone back on her pillow, she finished her writing.
“The first friend supposed, in a rather pretentious way, that nights such as these were what life was made of – moments. Moments worth treasuring and locking away, like the shared thrill of pulling off spectacular pranks on teachers, and endless afternoons chatting about things that didn’t really matter. Moments of slowly, steadily, building bonds with people. Sharing experiences, and seeing them a bit cracked and frayed at the edges. Learning – always learning – about their complexities; every habit, every flaw, every marred piece of themselves that added up to who they were in that very moment. Watching them grow and change, like little them-shaped bubbles of potential, thrumming with energy, and growth, and opportunity.
And she supposed that friendship had always been more than just trust. You trust people every day, even if it’s just for things like not running you over as you cross the street. No, friendship – real closeness to people – runs deeper than that. It’s being undeniably open, and vulnerable, and broken, yet feeling utterly safe. It’s to go about your daily routine without fear of judgement. It’s the tangled mess of human interaction, and it’s the art of being beautifully, wonderfully, and unashamedly broken, together. C.S. Lewis once said that loving anybody is vulnerable, and he was right. It’s vulnerable, yes, but it’s beautiful. Like a new-born deer standing for the first time, or those first snowdrops pushing through the frost, love, is beautiful. And when it ends – as all things must – it’s sad. A sadness that sears through your lungs and leaves behind a bitter taste in your mouth. But we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that these two things can’t coexist. And we must dare to hope that the complex beauty of our life outweighs the sadness of it, in the end.”