Artwork by Andrew Ferez
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‘What are friends for?’ A question, a quote open to immense interpretation and an oblivion of answers.
My closest friend… We met many years ago as we both looked at a deceased chick that had fallen from the nest. Bald and helpless until the slight evening chill caused it to turn blue and pass away. Eyes that had never even opened to see beyond the warmth of the down on which it once lay. No sign of the mother bird, an all round scene of tragedy that had sparked off unity between two pigtailed children.
Early school days dragged by in a dizzying array of spelling tests, dodgy outfits and a rare gold star for spelling ‘computer’ correctly. We both wore clothes made by my grandmother or picked out from dead kid’s remains in jumble sales. We were mildly bullied but I, being the more verbal of both children, squawked how they were only jealous. Of mustard polyester roll neck jumpers and Gola trainers? Got to keep the delusion alive.
School holidays were priceless. Precious moments spent together, learning new things and how to pronounce vulgarities correctly from overhearing arguing adults. Sat upon walls with scuffed Kickers we silently observed other kids as they played and fought for popularity. I was content humming “In A World of My Own” from the Disney adaptation of Alice In Wonderland as my friend got lost in thought. She was quieter than I and I was fiercely protective of her. She was strong with a stubbornness I loved. To me, she was independent. And being dependent was something I perceived as weakness.
The late 80s briefly separated us and I felt like I was missing a limb. My Siamese twin dissected away and sent to another school, moved away, died even? I was sad yet furious. How could this happen to us? Like in the movie May, I should have just harvested fake friends’ body parts and constructed a new best friend. But no. I couldn’t even make fake friends. Hamsters were now my company and they suited me fine.
Early 90s. In hooded t-shirt and Chipie jeans I went to collect the Holy Grail of street trainers: black and white Travel Fox hi-tops. The best looking boy at school had a pair and not him but his trainers was love at first sight. I torched my Reeboks and suddenly felt cool. Popular. With it. No longer picked on because of my comic print jacket. ‘Acceptable In The 80s’ or not, Calvin Harris, I looked a prick. Yet this sudden feeling of acceptance caused me to pine for my strong beautiful best friend. “Where are you??”
Then one day. During chemistry where I dutifully copied test results and mixed hazardous substances a new kid turned up. It was her!!! She came back to me!! My Bunsen burner singed my hair as I carelessly reached across the graffitied desk to grab her. “You’re back!! Please sit with me!”. She did and the void of her absence evaporated. It never happened. We set about amusing ourselves by doing diagrams in ink rather than pencil, labelling what slipped our mind as “stuff”.
High school was murder. Nothing but favouritism, Prefects and the freaks and geeks. The latter group being where we fitted in beautifully. Made real friends with lank haired spotty kids in Iron Maiden tees and could enjoy the art of conversation. No fucking flicking hair, pouting in mirrors or barking orders from Prefects. Our new friends were PERFECTS. Art, music, movies and this time whilst sat upon walls with scuffed Dr Martens. Kickers long since kicked off.
And so high school passed by and our swan wings spread. These two ugly ducklings now young women with first jobs, wages and driving lessons enforcing the fact we had to put away childish things. Yeah right. Bollocks to that, we did as we pleased. We wore Woolworths Tazmanian Devil tees because grown-up clothes were boring. Laura Ashley needed an atom bomb of weed killer on every store. We laughed as we just enjoyed being ourselves and spent every Saturday in Edinburgh buying vinyl and 60s clothing.
And so, time trundled on. Illnesses, injuries, relocations, new jobs… all things that presented their own set of challenges. But this time, unlike the late 80s, we were closer than ever. Never lost touch and seemed to be together almost constantly. Staying over watching our latest VHS purchases as we ate Caramacs. Virgin Megastore our Mecca.
Since first meeting over a hypothermic chick in full rigor mortis, we knew we had something really unique. An endless incredible bond where each knew what the other was thinking, feeling even. Very similar personalities with a sprinkle of healthy difference.
After all this time
Looking in the mirror I realised
No petit mal seizure but a revelation
And it made… sense
My best friend wasn’t real. No-one could see her, hear her, feel her even. Yet I felt I lost her briefly in those gaudy 1980s. That, a mystery I couldn’t comprehend. That girl who was my twin in every way but was stronger, more confident, beautifully independent and bold. Was me. Really was she me?? Yes. The me I wished I was. The me I nurtured like a best friend hoping I’d fully become her.