Friendships. Made of clusters of impressions and feelings we gather about people during different occasions, brief encounters, pleasant or difficult situations we live through with them. Some people we only get to know in certain situations and it is up to us if we want to see them again.
Real, deep friendships are a completely different story, especially when you also share the same living space together. There is time, passing the way it does. There is you and the other person. And finally, there is an abstract line, a ribbon snaking its way through all of it. The good and the bad days, the average days, coffee in the garden, sun lighting up the rooms, great sunsets, sad sunsets, gloomy moods, miserable mornings, breakups, broken noses, broken legs, insecurities, being exposed to the other in your childish ways and in awkwardness, PMS moods (rages!), fun times, sharing inside jokes, sharing silence, fear, indifference, goodbyes and returns, and countless times of opening a bottle of wine together.
The photograph was taken on the J train in Brooklyn, late July of 2016. Me and B were on the way to the JFK airport and B’s plane was about to take off in two hours. One doesn’t choose when a train traffic is stalled, but the MTA usually picks the worst possible moment for the train to get stuck. So there we were, stranded somewhere in bloody Cypress Hills as the sun was setting over the hot and distant Manhattan skyline.
I wasn’t sure whether we were going to make it on time anymore. B was silent and looked completely calm, but I knew that deep inside, she must be freaking out, already imagining this as a part of her personal chain of big and small disasters she lives through when travelling (sometimes funny, sometimes not).
The train hadn’t moved an inch for the last 20 minutes.
I was thinking about distracting B by telling her the story of my friend who found a naughty squirrel in his house, stuffed it in a bag, and drove it all the way to Cypres Hill in Brooklyn to release her, because he liked the band called Cypress Hill. But I didn’t say anything. I thought that maybe she already knew this one, as she heard most of my stories.
How do we read how others feel?
The line going through the lives of two friends that I have mentioned above eventually leads to mastering the silence you share. Being quiet with the other person is one of the hardest things - the air gets heavy with insecurity, with the unspoken. A friendship means also being comfortable in each others stillness, without the urge to reach for your phone or to simply walk away. In my mind, reading the silence is an another level of connection.
When your reach that level with someone, living through all the shared moments, you will finally be able to read from the density of air between you and know whether to break the quiet moment or to respect it.
PS Eventually, we did make it to the fucking airport. I love you B - I was never a breastman anyway! (inside joke :-)