62. To Absent Friends

Sometimes, no, quite often in Winter, I am the first person to walk in virgin snow down my street. I leave the house for work before most people’s alarms go off. The quiet hush of morning. Getting up and about at 4am is very different from still being up at 4am. It feels safer to walk in the dark that early/late than it does at midnight. Too soon for food; maybe not coffee though. Polite nods to the regulars. I can’t imagine chatting to anyone on my commute, or I will have to talk to them every single day for the rest of my life. Life before earbuds and mobile phones? I guess people read a book or the newspaper.

I’m not sure if acquaintances, colleagues, and family count as friends. People who are there through habit, obligation or payment, rather than choice. I do try and find some common ground with the people I spend the most time with, even if they don’t like me. I know I’m not for everyone, and that’s fine. If I know people for long enough, then we are bound to find something we dis/like something about each other. We all move between the levels of circles of trust in each other’s lives over the years. If you asked me about someone I’ve worked with for five years, I might answer, “I knew them quite well a couple of years ago, but not really so much now.” I’ll never understand how a person can be on their best behaviour at the beginning of a relationship, and expect someone else to feel ok that they’ve got to know a person who only exists in very rare circumstances.

Detective Lieutenant William Somerset in Se7en could have been talking about me when he said, “anyone who spends a significant amount of time with me finds me disagreeable.”

Those popular people who get invited to everything, go with the flow, know when to shut up and agree with the consensus, regardless of their own viewpoint. I can’t even do group socialising unless there’s an activity or it’s structured. (Craft class, theatre or meal.)

Occasionally, I bump into someone from my past and am surprised at how enthusiastically I am greeted. At the time when we knew each other, I was unaware that we were such good friends. I have no idea if I’m doing this friendship thing all wrong. I suppose the surprise of meeting again after years doesn’t give anyone the time to prepare their reaction, so it’s one way of knowing. I wonder why people don’t tell each other how much they mean to each other at the time. Kindness is free.

A little bit of rose-tinted nostalgia is nice now and then, but I like to live in the present. FB doesn’t appeal to me although I know it must work because it’s massive. The constant reminders of forgotten times. If I was feeling low, the comparison between the edited highlights of someone’s life and my mundane would be unhelpful, at the exact time when I would need friendly support the most. It would be impossible to leave, and keep that easy network of contacts. There’s only a handful of people that I like enough to make the extra effort with, so even though I might have fewer than 20 numbers in my phone, I’ve always got someone to go to the cinema with.

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