|Today is my friend’s birthday. Last year it was a whole situation, surprise gift snuck into the pocket of his coat while it was thrown over the side of a chair in the theatre (a tiny violin, like in the Mr Krabs meme), drinks at the pub after tech (alcohol was half his personality, the other half being annoyingly good at sound engineering and knowing it). This year it is an Instagram DM, also, happy birthday! Exclamation mark.
Season 3 of You dropped 15 October and my friend and I swore we were going to watch it together, courtesy of some nice little long distance technology. We are currently meandering around on episode six. Things in our way: a Cambridge Master’s course, timezones, general malaise (us), slow response times (us, but mostly her), a boyfriend to spend the entire holidays with (her). Sometimes I’ll get a message at 11pm at night: you want to watch an episode now? Like a random hookup, Netflix and Chill ;) Except it’s my best friend and I have work tomorrow and I don’t see the message until I’m about to sleep anyway. Serial killers in suburbia will have to be postponed.
Adulthood is lonely. But also I’m already turning into an aunty because I buy packs of fresh veg just because they’re 3 for $2 at Giant, and I hoard Christmas ribbons, and I tell my younger sister things like “enjoy school while it lasts”. But also, adulthood is lonely. Everyone’s running on their own time. No one’s timetables magically align. You don’t cross each other on metaphorical corridors or linger by metaphorical water coolers taking far too long of a cher can I go toilet break. Social media kind of swoops in like a drug dealer, hey kids, but it’s not the same as the real thing, leaves you a little drained at the almost-there-but-not-quiteness of it, a little breathless with yearning whenever a video of an old friend crosses your feed. You think about how they’re vibrant and alive and laughing in pixelate, but also it’s not the same as sitting on the couch with them at 3am, drinking white wine (Gavi) and eating jalapeno poppers and chips (sorry, crisps), talking about whatever, and hugging them, that sheer thing of physicality. Instagram feels real, not real, like a taunt, like loss. You close the app and wonder if your friend will reply to your birthday message, because he’s rarely on Instagram anyway.
It’s hard to let go of people who are still, technically, there. Just in another city, another timezone. They’re inaccessible enough that you forget you need them, for a while, until a flash of something (a stage, an old video, Halloween, steamboats, episode six of You) hits and you feel the lack of them all over again.
But anyway, you keep plodding on in your own time. You prick your thumb cross-stitching (you miscount your stitches and have to unpick the entire row, twice) and your mother nags that you should have done it this way and look, Mom, a stitch is a stitch. You fall into old escapisms with new media (Arcane, Witcher 3, The Book of Boba Fett) and finally catch up on some of those Marvel shows (WandaVision, Hawkeye) and then you trawl Reddit and Twitter and laugh at other people’s memes and read other people’s theories. You feel vindicated when they hate the same things you do, and thrilled when they loved the things you loved. You send ten TikToks at a time to three different friends and get fifteen in return. You doomscroll on Twitter but also your friend drops the cover for her upcoming book in your DMs, thoughts?, and you yell because it is beautiful and you can’t wait to hold it in your hands. You post a bunch of old videos and your friend, who misses it too, said it made her cry. And so it goes. Existing uncertainly alone but with paths that cross like threads in moments, nodes in which little loves are passed on like sparks, cross-time, cross-country, cross-memory. A pattern, in and out, over and over.
We hold on, in hopes of meeting again.
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