Friends (Not the Show)

Friends come and friends go. Some give, some take. Most do both. Why do we care for each other? Does necessity draw us together? Or is it shared experiences, common stories? It must be more than this, if it’s to last.

A while ago I spent the weekend in the Barossa Valley with my best mate. Let’s call him Goose. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. Same primary school, same high school. He was the best man at my wedding. But how do we continue to put up with each other? Are we family? Not exactly. No blood lines shared, yet we’re brothers. We’d take a bullet for each other. How did we get so close? How do we endure?

Not all friendships are so. Some will go for 10 years, seemingly unbreakable, then fizzle to an annual phone call. Others last a month, but are full of debauchery and laughs that make your eyes water. Others last a weekend, a day, the length of a smile from a stranger.

Endurance comes only with acceptance: the way two siblings fight and fight until they’re exhausted, eventually succumbing to the inevitability of the wolf pack. Recognising your equal, you challenge, stir, hate, love and accept this persistent companion. This soldier in arms. And this is Goose. A contradiction in several ways, Goose is spiritual, yet scientific. A son of conservative voters, he sometimes leans to the left. An avid gamer…he also reads.

I have friends that talk about football, friends that talk about gambling, friends that sell The Big Issue. Not many, however, do I honestly confide in, tell my darkest secrets. There’s Goose and…let’s call him Coach.

Coach is from Queensland – the Gold Coast to be exact. It’s been 22 years and counting, and we still talk and talk and talk. Every now and then, he gives me a kick up my arse. You see, Coach is my motivator, my inspiration, my…coach. He once literally was. At our cricket club.

Goose and Coach. Great friends, excellent confidants and reliable wingmen. But they live miles away, contactable by phone, yet an effort to see in person. So here I am, in my little boarding house room, lonelier than ever. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – nothing replaces face-to-face contact. My phone stats reveal many unanswered calls. I just can’t be bothered. Leave me alone, I’m sleeping.

But, sometimes, I long for the timbre and tone of a family member’s stories, a friend’s tall tales or an associate’s blatant lies. I don’t care what I hear, just as long as I can make contact. Hear a friendly voice.

I like to think that I could become friends with anyone on this blue planet. I mean, Donald Trump, I’m not so sure. Putin, less so. That Matthew McConaughey seems like he would have some interesting stories, though.

I think we all need human contact to survive. We can only entertain ourselves for so long. We need others to pass the time, validate ideas, to hug. We are social animals. In saying that, I can relate to – and sometimes am – one of those who can’t connect to the pack.

Just know, there’s a friend out there for all of us – someone who relates to you, who’s been through the same stuff. A Trekkie, a goth, a hipster. Do you love kale? Worship Spock? Are you always sad? Someone will take you in. Don’t give up.

I say, if you see a lonely person, give yourself to them. Even a simple “Hello” can change someone’s day. A conversation can change someone’s week. A date to meet again could change their life. Open your door, walk out and seek connection. Find someone.

By Mark W.
Mark is a Big Issue vendor and a good mate. He sells the mag at Adelaide Arcade and the Body Shop, Rundle Mall.

Published in Ed#682