39. Half a World Away

I have a true friend, whom I have never met. I’ve known him for 10 years but I don’t even know what he looks like. He’s an artist in Finland and I have one of his prints on my office wall. That how we got chatting in the first place. I emailed the address on the back of the print to thank him for creating something so beautiful and we just carried on corresponding. His wife died twelve years ago, but if there has been anyone else in his life since, he’s never mentioned it and I have never asked. He has a dog called Lenni and they go on walking/boating holidays.

We spend time together chatting online about the weather, or what we’re watching on Netflix. We pick a series and watch it an episode at a time. It would feel like cheating to watch another episode before we’ve discussed the last one. I win twice as often as he does when we play each other online at Scrabble. His English is perfect, so I don’t feel I have an advantage. He says the internet changed everything in everyone’s life in the remote village where he lives. He knows what I look like because he’s read a magazine that had one of my stories in.

I imagine him reading out loud the postcards from my holidays in America. He went to Iceland for his 50th birthday with his daughter, but that’s the only country outside of Finland that he has really been to. I don’t think he’d like Las Vegas or New York very much. The birthday cards he sends me are always original tiny watercolours by him or another of his artist friends. He reads my restaurant reviews on Squaremeal and he sends me pictures of fish, foraged greens, bread that looks like wood and berries as a joke. I send him samples of face cream for his dry, windchapped face, and he sends me cuttings of a cartoon he draws for the local paper. The jokes don’t translate well though but I think maybe I just don’t get them.

Without doubt he is one of my best friends. He means more to me than most people I see ‘in real life’ and I am absolutely certain we will never meet. It would break the spell.

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