Dear Friend / Dear Stranger

It doesn’t take much to remember you; a song, a smell, a movie, that one celebrity with whom you bear an uncanny resemblance, or spotting a car the same model as yours. At times it’s something salient, like somebody mentioning your name, and at other times it’s less so, like cooking a meal and then realising it’s one of your favourites. Whatever it is that brings you back to the fore of my mind, it’s always a bittersweet experience to have you there.

It’s bittersweet to think of the little moments in our friendship that I’ve retained with perfect clarity; the ones I need only close my eyes to go back to, which leave me feeling incredibly happy, and then in quick succession, incredibly sad.

It’s bittersweet to re-read the old conversations between us I’ve saved from the past year or so. I see our words to each other on the screen, and I can’t help but smile at the evidence of our pocket friendship – the most significant of its kind that I am likely to ever experience. I can’t help but marvel at how, with each sent and received, we each learnt a little more about the other, to the point where a deeper understanding was solidified beneath the surface.

I look back at our early discussions, and I can recollect the exact thoughts that were going through my head at a given moment. This was my opinion about this, and that was your take on that.

I shared my memories with you, and you’d provide humorous analysis. I laid bare my concerns and weaknesses, and you taught me to think, to react, to respond in ways that you saw fit – and in the process, you changed me. You’d send me a song that you were listening to, I would absorb its words and sounds – it was almost as if the lyricist was you – and then I’d learn to like it as well. I learnt the language too, so I could better understand what was being said to me through the music.

It is strange to speak that language or hear those songs now; things which grew to be familiar through you, but then were forced to become alien once again. An ongoing process of learning and unlearning, of knowing and forgetting is what I put it down to. But at times that’s difficult; I was a different person before I met you, and it’s impossible to go back to being that person after you.

Somewhere in the bittersweet aftertaste of re-reading our old conversations, I find that I miss you. I miss your bad jokes, hearing about your day and the people and events that populated it, about your plans for the future. I miss the experience of slowly discovering someone, of watching as the layers unfurled before me.

I even miss the message alert sounds I’d hear when I recounted to you my memories, and you sent me those songs; when I shared my anxieties, and you illustrated how you think. I miss what those sounds represented.

Right now, our connection remains. It is beyond my reach, but it’s there, floating somewhere. I’m not sure how to find it, and nor am I sure whether it’s better off left unfound. Even if all that is gone, the conversations are still here. Perhaps it is nice to have proof that something once existed, even if it no longer does.