Yesterday a good friend of mine, who has gone to travel and live in a couple of other countries for the next year, got in touch. He was upset – someone he knew, but wasn’t close to, died. It was a very short conversation, but it got me thinking about absent friends.
Not just dead absent friends, though I guess by my age everyone has at least one person who has died that crosses their mind at least once a day. (The person I think of took his own life, so when I think of him it’s a mixture of missing, and wishing, and anger. And sometimes, now, I look back and think, ‘My God, but he was so young, there was so much more to come,’ because it was ten years ago, and I still feel young, so how much of a child was he? At least once a day. Those people leave scars. There’s still a song I can’t hear without it making my heart jump in my chest, and then I start crying. Sometimes I’m not even aware that it’s playing until the tears have already started. It’s a fairly popular song as well, so this can be awkward.)
I miss my travelling friend as well, though obviously not in the same, lost way. London being London, it’s not as though we met up in person very often anyway, but in this world of ever-present social networking, it was easy to have a small chat most days, which is not the case now. It frustrates me that I can’t think of something more to talk about when we do chat. Surely when someone is thousands of miles away you should be able to come up with something more in depth than, “Well, work is boring.”? Apparently not. Or maybe it’s that I know he’s travelling in part to sort his own head out, so perhaps we’re both politely withholding the gritty details of how we really are.
I miss a work colleague who became a friend and recently moved to a new job. The balance at work has shifted and I miss our conversations and the way she kept everything light-hearted. I miss old university and school friends that I haven’t kept in touch with as well as I should have. Some people I kind of miss but don’t really want to hear about or from – if facebook wasn’t a thing I’d have no idea where they are or what they’re up to, but that sort of ending doesn’t happen anymore. And weirdly, I miss those people that I wish I’d made better friends with in the first place, those people who are fascinating, or nice, or interesting, and for whatever reason you just never got to know each other.
The worst thing about friends being absent is that feeling that everyone’s lives are moving on and they’re doing things and experiencing things, and Hey, am I missing out? and then rather than focusing on what I do and how I’m happy, I start looking at the things I’m not happy with and then start being dissatisfied with everything about my life. I start, as in my previous entry, resenting my other half for not being someone he obviously cannot be. It’s not as if he really stops me from doing things I want to do – if anything he’s been remarkably supportive of everything I decide I want to try; how can I possibly resent him for not getting up at 6am to come with me to a race when he’s been so chill about me getting up at 6am endlessly for weeks, waking him up, and then making me dinner in the evening? But when I start to read too much into other people’s lives, I do, and it’s ridiculous. I start resenting my job for keeping me in London when at the moment I don’t want to be in London – and, God knows, I could find another job or look for somewhere else to live (and I kind of have) but it’s such a long process.
I tried to explain to another, non-absent, friend earlier this week that I wish the Circle Line still existed in its truly circular form, so that I could just get on it with a book and go round and round for a couple of hours. He didn’t get it, and I didn’t know how to explain the attraction of doing that – but now that I’ve read back through this lot, I think I’ve figured it out. I don’t really want things to change, I just miss the people that aren’t here because things have changed. Sitting on the circle line, reading, would give me the comforting illusion that I’m going somewhere, without ever actually having to leave.