We spoke about this not long ago, Kal and I. Being, as he was, in the grip of a big house move, he felt unsettled, and in a state of flux and we were chatting about how he felt, and why.
Kal is, without sounding too High School Musical about it, my best friend. He is the classic example of the alternate meaning of “You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends”. Normally that saying is used by people bemoaning their nutty Uncle Jim who always drinks all the nail-varnish remover at parties, or their messed up siblings or parents. I’m using it in the way that means “Thank fuck you can choose your friends – I choose you.”
He gets a bit freaked out by how well I know him, but I love it – it’s amazing to know another human being so well: it makes you feel connected in a way that having a raft of acquaintances never can, and I cherish that friendship, not least for its honesty. I can absolutely know with Kal that he does like having me around – I never feel paranoid he wishes I would fuck off, like I do with almost everyone else. Know why? Cos he’d tell me, that’s why. Scratch that: he does tell me. I can tell him anything, and I think he feels the same.
The time where Kal, FlatMateGiles, Livie and I lived together isn’t often a topic of conversation for us. It happened, and for various reasons it fell apart, but looking back on it, it was one of those periods of my life that worked perfectly. I don’t remember the days we fell out, or the pile of dishes no-one would wash. I don’t remember missing home, or feeling lonely, or feeling crowded or feeling any of the things I’m sure I must have felt, because I was pretty bonkers then as well.
I do remember the fun, geeky, stupid stuff you do with people who you trust implicitly not to judge you and look at you with that expression that says “See you? You’re shit, you are.”
I remember that we could never agree who should wash the dishes, so we made a chart, like the ones you might introduce for youe three (imaginary) young children, involving stickers and rewards and praise. It was a tick-box chart where you accrued points for doing chores. The “Tick Box Master”, or person with the most ticks (for those of you who are mentally defective, or American) received some reward or other… pride, or some such nonsense.
I remember the absolutely beautiful garden we had out the back – it was a complete suntrap, and I remember it as being huge, although I’m sure it wasn’t. Mostly I remember drinking juice out there with Giles one afternoon, from a glass with cows on it, and it falling over and making a really sweet and oddly memorable “pleeoooop!” noise.
For some reason, I remember alot of staying in, although I’m confident I was out a lot. Hanging out in our huge living room, with its sink-right-in sofas, sharing never-ending in-jokes which new people will never understand. Why would they even want to?
As I say, I was pretty bonkers then as well. I was recovering from a pretty hefty bout of depression and a failed year of university and I was working at Tesco and hating every last moment. Occasionally I would work nights, waking up and slamming cupboard doors in protest of people’s fun, chirpy conversations which they had the audacity to hold at the ungoldly hour of, oh, 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
But again, it’s not so much the time that I would pray for a small but serious accident to happen to me, so I could avoid work that I remember, it’s the feeling of being surrounded by people I love, and of being in control, happy and free.
These days, I’m marginally less bonkers on a good day, and significantly more bonkers on a bad day, and I’m far from in control – I’m desperately trying to find some job, any job; I have no idea where I’ll be in two or three months, and as for where I’ll be in five years? Your guess is good as mine.
However, I am at least still surrounded by people I love and who love me. I’ve got Paul, who understands me (mostly), supports me (completely) and loves me (inexplicably), and I’ve still got FlatMateGiles, Fran and, of course, Kal.
As I say, we don’t discuss Braid Road much, because there isn’t much to say – we were all there, we have the same memories, largely. However, with both of our lives in flux, we talked about it not long ago, sharing stories and checking that we both had the same wildly unrealistic and rose-tinted memories of those six months.
It was quite late, and Kal was working the following day at Stupid O’clock, and shattered from days of packing and moving and driving and phonecalls and this and that and the other. Already in his bed under the covers, I lay on top of the sheets, nose to nose with him, like siblings who should be already dreaming, or friends at a sleepover, telling sneaky ghost stories. We wondered aloud whether everyone has a period in their life which they think of as fondly as we do of that time, and I thought that yes, probably they do.
Kal thought I was talking rubbish. “No”, he told me from beneath the sheets. “You don’t get one good phase in your life: you get lots. There will be more for both of us.”
I hope he’s right