To my friend, who is neither dead nor dying
I hate weddings.
I really do.
I hate social occasions like cats hate water. A wedding takes everything I have a problem with and compounds it, and despite the fact that I love wedding food, and I do, contrary to popular belief, like spending time with good friends, neither of those things trumps the fact that I prefer to be alone. With a book. And I think you should know I do take books to parties.
I also really am not good at change – not even good change. So you can imagine the multiplied dismay of the past few weeks, when a number of my oldest and closest friends, in a short period of collective nuptial madness, left the world of spinsterhood behind.
You know when people die? Even if you knew them, and liked them, it can not affect you much: they aren’t a part of your daily life, so you don’t feel their absence. Although I do not mean to compare marriage to death (it isn’t that bad, people), the comparison is a useful one. Among those setting sail was one friend who is a part of my daily life, and I’m just waiting to see how marriage changes that thing that is ‘us’.
So this is something of a eulogy to my friend, who is neither dead nor dying, but simply getting married. Because tides of change and all that have no mercy, I wonder if grasping at the straws of memories going by might be the only way for the world to understand that this is a big thing to me. Possibly bigger than if it were me (haha). Because when things are happening to you, you’re ON the boat that’s going away. You’re not the one left alone on the shore without a snorkel.
So let me tell you about my friend who has set sail on the Wild Seas of Matrimony.
On paper, we’re not a match. In any way.
I read. She doesn’t. Which is pretty much a dichotomy that defines my universe. And yet, bizarrely, there are very few other people in the world who have been as good a friend to me as she has been. We have nothing in common. NOTHING. Except a long history together, starting at the age of 10 in a crowded school hall, pushed together by our parents, who blatantly had a ‘Muslim radar’ which enabled them to find the only other Muzzies in the room. Oh, and being Muslim. Which made all the difference. Eventually –
Because we weren’t even friends for the first few years. Because, hello, just because she was the only other Muslim hijabi in my year, and our parents decided to club together and put us in the same form didn’t mean I was going to be her friend. Like, I don’t think so. I don’t want friends ANYWAY. I have BOOKS.
You can see how it went. She was kind of normal, and I kind of wasn’t. So we ran off together at 2pm every day to pray, but SO WHAT. I would decide if I wanted to be friends or not and I DIDN’T. SO.
Now leave me alone, I’m trying to read. No I am not lonely, no I do not feel a pressing need to make conversation GOD PLEASE GO AWAY I just feel a pressing need to CARRY ON READING MY BOOK will you PLEASE GO AWAY, ALL OF YOU.
Yeah. That was me in secondary school. It really was. Everyone who knew me will concur.
So anyway – are we still talking about love? I think many things go beyond mere love, and there are debts between us in both directions neither of us can begin to calculate, never mind pay. There are people you don’t need to tell ‘my phone is always on, call whenever you need to’, and there aren’t many people who WILL call you at 2am. Those people are important. Having a debt called in is far more important than collecting it, and if anything affirms it, it’s being the first person someone calls at the most unsociable hour, caring about not waking you up, but needing or wanting you enough to do it anyway.
We aren’t the type who can say ‘I love you, man’ or ‘you’re really important to me’. We communicate important information via thumps, grunts, quips and occasionally witty repartee (I bring the wit, she brings the repartee, jus’ so you know). And I don’t believe in the whole ‘Forever Friends’-thing – people will come and go in your life and you can’t stop them from sailing away on the inexorable currents of their own lives. I don’t even believe in best friends as a concept – I think that’s a linear and reductive way of categorising complex and different relationships. Maybe when you’re 6, it’s okay, but as you grow up, your relationships take on a lot more nuance.
We are an unlikely couple, my friend and I, in more ways than I can count. You could call it an arranged marriage . But I know wherever she goes, whomever she is with, we’re connected. Not by a red thread of fate, but something at once more substantial and more subtle: a mutual current of shared history, and most important of all, that we are on the same road, trying to get to the same place.
What did we have in common? Everything. We had problems, and only we knew the answers. We had family difficulties, or health issues, or work issues, or guy problems (Muslim girls have those, too – but it ain’t what you think, trust me)…nobody else could give us the answers we needed. We knew where our answers had to come from, and it was a place none of our peers or colleagues could come to us from. In our times of weakness, we drew strength from each other, reminding each other what it was all for – things we knew and forgot.
And you know, what doesn’t look so good on paper could turn out to be just right for you. Which just goes to show that parents can know a lot more than we give them credit for.
To my friend who is neither dead nor dying, but merely getting married: may your marriage be happy and full and blessed, and know that where you are is exactly where you are meant to be. And also, that my phone is always on.
Except that it, uh, doesn’t work at the moment because it finally gave up on life. I need a new phone. But I don’t want one.
I told you I was bad at change.