A friend called me the other day while I was on the way to work. I haven’t seen her for over 15 years, not spoken to her since December. We giggled and laughed. Told each other how wonderful we were. Swapped stories of kids and nieces. Philosophized about what beauty was. We did not exchange news about ourselves – there was no need to. Our relationship is about who we are, not about what we do.
When we finished, I found a lady staring at me with an unreadable expression on her face. I smiled at, as I often do to strangers on the train.
She smiled back, a slightly tentative smile. Then gathering courage asked, “Were you talking to your sister?”
“No. To a friend”, I replied, then added unnecessarily, “we were in school together.”
“Aren’t you lucky you are still in contact with your friends from school,” she sighed wistfully “I lost touch with all of them years ago.”
“So had I. We started finding each other only about a year back.”
“What’s the point? I am sure I will have nothing in common with them. We will exchange life stories, ask about other people we know, and never meet again. That is what always happens with old acquaintances. Not everyone is as lucky as you.”
Her cynicism was something I could relate to, because that is exactly how I had felt a couple of years back. I had to give her a piece of advice before getting off the train. “Do yourself a favour. Just try finding some of your old friends. You may be in for some wonderful surprises. And in any case what have you to lose?”
My friends from school! Some I was in University with, some I tried keeping in touch with even after passing out. But we all gradually drifted apart. We had the rest I started drifting apart from immediately after school.
It was only about a year back that we started finding each other through social networking sites. On the face of it, we had nothing in common. We had all taken very different paths, had very different experiences, become very different people. And yet, it was precisely because we had each evolved in such different ways that we discovered that common thread.
We live in very different worlds. Worlds that are unlikely ever to collide. The only thing that brings us together is a shared past. And because we know we will only meet each other as the schoolgirls that we once were, we don’t feel the need to put on our mask.
We can be ourselves with each other, because we know the other is not judging us; not mentally debating where to place us on the success ladder we all subconsciously condone.
When we meet, we are just ourselves – mothers, women, people, friends. We end up sharing with each other things we wouldn’t with anyone else because we know the other is not going to judge. We don’t bother to say what the other person wants to hear, because we have transcended the need for politeness. We are friends.
I hope the lady I met on the train tries to search out her school mates. They make wonderful friends. And sometimes a friend is all you really need.