Staying In Touch (1)
After the leaving do, who will you stay in touch with? Will you keep your friends, or quickly fade into oblivion, drifting into a netherworld of deleted emails, with the good intention ‘Must call…’ declining in importance on mutual ‘to do’ lists?
I refused to have a leaving do, mainly through the fear that I would fail, grow scared, and return with indecent haste. I emailed details of my new address immediately, and got some lovely ‘welcome to your home’ cards in the post. One former colleague never got in contact, except to call me asking if I would babysit, having forgotten that I had moved, which sort of set the tone.
Men are just weird about friendship generally, and R ignores everyone after they’ve left his orbit, humbly admitting that dipping self esteem and poor people skills compel him to believe that no-one will choose to stay in touch. So they don’t.
Those who maintain contact are a surprise. Wayne called to update me on his news. Danny is so good at saying in touch that sometimes I forgot I hadn’t seen him for months. It’s what you discuss that counts. Trivia is important – the chatter, and minutiae of everyday life. Cheap calls mean allow hours of mindless chat. I want to know about Danny’s new bathroom, and his dog. Anna always calls when she’s bought new clothes, claiming to have heard me encouraging her in absentia, and blaming me, but contact drifts, and is purely on her terms. Helen sent witty, informative emails from New Zealand, which made me laugh out loud.
Emma emails, regularly, and even visits me. Gary’s texts are always hilarious; bitchy comments about bands he’s seen, or the daft questions he’s going to ask them. Dan won’t communicate at anything other than yearly intervals, but myspacing means we usually track each other down. These days, Wendy - who is so busy - sends texts and emails that chatter about that freaky Ron Meuck exhibition in Edinburgh, or that she is busy.
I wish it was possible to plead for contact without sounding needy, and desperate, to calmly inform your friends that due to solitude, cards, letters and emails have an increased value, and that yes – would they please respond?
Sophie and I have lived in different cities for a while now, and both appreciate how hard it can be to wander in solitude and eavesdrop on the world. Casually, she spends about two hours on the phone each night, if she’s not careful. I think – two hours on the phone? That’s what you’d average for a night in the pub. And we talk about absolute bollocks: what we’re having for tea, gossip, stupid chats, sometimes watching the same TV show simultaneously.
The selection process for weeding out life long friends is deceptively ruthless. People may fade before they vanish, other departures are brutally abrupt. It’s always sad when they disappear, but it seems to be inevitable. Some leave behind a gap, and others, a long, dark shadow.