When I was 16 I met a girl that, in a matter of hours, became one of my best ever friends.
She had thick black eyeliner that covered most of her eyelids, she had enormous hair dyed a dark red that exploded over her shoulders and an absolute I don’t give a fuck-ness to her and I knew from the moment I met her that this chick was my absolute spirit animal.
The friend that introduced us was a little put out that by the time lunch was over we loved each other more than either of us had ever loved him, but even he knew there wasn’t anyway he was going to get in the middle of something that was so clearly meant to be.
For the next three years that friendship became something that I treasured more than anything.
When I turned 18 and was starting at my first job in London (which I was terrible at btw), we were spending a couple of nights a week together; she was a student and liked hanging out at mine because I had a shower with a lock on the door and a big TV and food that she didn’t need to fight for. I liked hanging out at hers because I was 18 and working in an office and wanted to dip my toe into the life of a student every now and then.
I was with her the night she met her boyfriend of six years for the first time (I actually introduced them after drunkenly demanding that he leant me a lighter and then insisting that he met my beautiful best friend so that I could go and have a dance, all thoughts of that cigarette neglected when Beyoncé came on of course).
She was with me the night, a few months later, Alex came to London for a gig and pulled me up on stage and we kissed and began what is nearly our very own six year long relationship.
I knew her childhood bedroom and she knew mine, I’d pinch her clothes and she mine, I loved her sisters and she my siblings.
We had a long standing tradition that saw us wish the other a happy birthday using only our boobs as the canvass. Post-its, whipped cream, party hats, sushi – the more creative the better.
And then, inevitably, tragically, life got in the way.
There was no falling out, no door slamming, boyfriend pinching, hair pulling, behind the back bitching. There was nothing final and nothing sad. We just grew up and somehow we grew apart.
This happened with a lot of my friends at the time.
We put it down to circumstance; friends were moving to other countries, finding partners, settling down in the other side of the city, throwing themselves into new jobs. We were busy, we were doing our best and sacrifices were made.
Looking back though, I see that it wasn’t just down to circumstance. In truth your early twenties are a time at which losing friends, finding friends and learning new things about yourself are just power for the course. It’s just what happens.
You’ll find new interests and passions and you will go through a lot. Your body changes, your hopes and dreams change, your families move on, change, expand, deplete. You go through shit and you go through it in your own time and in your own way. You’re completely and utterly self-centred and you’re absolutely supposed to be.
You won’t reach your twenty fifth birthday with the same friends you had on your eighteenth, try as you might, you just won’t.
And that’s what happened to me, and to us.
I hadn’t even noticed it happening really; one no show on a night out turned into two, texts were forgotten about, a missed birthday photo, a new house unvisited, a graduation not commented on, a book launch not attended.
There was no animosity, there was no anger, there was just… sort of… nothing.
We just grew up and we grew apart.
And then bugger me, earlier this year, we grew back together again.
I realised it had been a while since we hung out (I also realised that was the biggest understatement I’d ever made) and I sent a text and then she told me she was working round the corner from my house and then she said she could come over for a cup of coffee at the house I HAD LIVED IN FOR THREE YEARS THAT SHE HADN’T BEEN TO SEE YET and I said that would be great and then she came over and we had a cuddle and she stayed for four hours.
Ten days later we met by the river and ate fish and chips with our hands and drank prosecco out the bottle like it was 2012 again (except for the fact she had to leave at 9pm because she lives the other end of London now and it takes her days to get home).
The following week we dragged our boyfriends out and double dated at a comedy night.
Two weeks later she came to the pub for Alex’s birthday.
Five days after that the four of us met at a pub round the corner from their house to watch England beat Columbia in the first penalty shoot out we have ever won in a World Cup Game.
She went to a Donald Trump protest last week (love her so much) and sent me photos of the signs she thought I’d like the most, she’s proof reading my work again (smartest person I know you can be damn sure I’m cashing in on that) – we’ve just fallen right back into where we were before, except it’s easier now because WhatsApp is as big a part of my life as oxygen and Instagram as water.
I mostly feel that the last three years didn’t happen.
That we somehow transitioned from too-much-black-eye-liner and wearing-nothing-but-leather-body-con-skirts and mostly-just-pretending-to-like-white-wine to the hard-working-professionals with the live-in-boyfriends who now like white wine a bit too much who have conversations about how having kids at about the same time would be so fun in a way that isn’t necessarily just hypothetical anymore.
It’s hard to fathom that we missed so much of each other’s lives, that we went through hardships alone, happiness alone, that we were lonely or angry or lost or scared and we didn’t think to get in touch with the other.
And although it makes me sad, I don’t regret a thing.
The best friend you had at five was probably not going to be your best friend at ten.
The best friend you had at ten was probably not going to be your best friend at fifteen.
The best friend you had at fifteen was probably not going to be your best friend at twenty.
And the best friend you had at twenty was probably not going to be your best friend at twenty five.
Who knows, maybe I’m wrong…
I have friends now that I had at twenty, I have friends now that I had at fifteen, at ten and at five.
But I have also lost countless friends along the way.
I suppose all you can really hope for is that one day, if it’s meant to be, you’ll make your way back to each other.
It’s got to be worth a try.
We may have grown up a lot since we first met, but we clearly didn’t outgrow one another… in the end at least.
Think about it like this: caterpillars are pretty cute when they’re wondering around all fluffy and insecty. They’re gross as hell when they’re all alone festering in their filthy cocoons. Then they break out as butterflies and are more beautiful than ever before.
As it turns out, we are butterflies.
Butterflies with way too many incriminating pictures of one another not to be friends until we die.