One of my best friends has been in a hospital ICU all this week. How does one discover who one’s best friend is? Sometimes they need to land up in hospital for you to realise that even though you may have met in your adult years —when it is cooler to be busy and distant rather than enthusiastic about each other — you are quite madly in love with this person. The physical reaction in your body tells you that you are no longer okay after finding out that your friend is seriously ill.
I’m one of those gifted people who has lots of friends. Sometimes I joke that I don’t make friends. Friends make me. My friend, S, however, is the exception. When I first began to read her online, I was fascinated by her candid demeanor. She seemed so sure of herself. So confident and casual about being seen by strangers online. I wanted her to know me, even as I regarded my own self as awkward and tongue-tied.
It took a while for the ice to break between us. When we finally met, I was equally fascinated to discover how private and shy S seems to be in real life. And how voluble I was in her company because I felt I already knew her. I had been reading her. I trusted her instantly.
We are often reminded to not get taken in by the personas people project on social media. Yet the same online platforms that some use to hide their true selves are the location for many others to not only reveal themselves fearlessly, but also discover nascent parts of themselves that they hadn’t had a chance to express in their non-virtual life.
Some of us disclose ourselves in cryptic ways. There are others who can see through our words to get a glimpse through the window to our inner self. Something like that happened between S and me. It happened between S and many others too, who like me, sought her friendship for themselves.
I have met S’s husband a few times before but had never spoken to him on the phone. Now he is the only way I can get news of her as she recovers from severe infection brought on by Covid-19. And her devoted army of friends, well-wishers and admirers have become her husband’s support system. I text him twice a day and on days when I skip the routine, he sends me information voluntarily. I transmit the scant news we have to her network of friends. I think about what she would want me to do and carry on with it.
As we continue to live through the cruel whirlwind of the second wave of the pandemic, we find ourselves stranded in an unfamiliar, halfway terrain. The national health crisis has left no family untouched by death and disease, but we also feel compelled to get on with each day as if nothing untoward is happening. Most of us are emotionally exhausted, yet we tell ourselves that now is the time to keep oneself together. We can feel our feelings later.
At a time when we want to reach out to each other for support, we are trapped by lockdown and our own personal crises closer to home. Despite everything, this is also a time when our relationships are refreshed, when our collective crisis has reminded us of the preciousness of what connects us to each other.
My friend, S, is a smartphone queen and a communications expert, but she has not responded to any messages from her hospital bed for most of last week. I continue to text her and share updates, hoping to make her laugh when she feels stronger and adjusts her spectacles to check her messages. This morning, I texted her to inform her that I was going to write about her. Because how can I write about anything when it is her on my mind all the time? I imagine she gave me permission.
What does one do with love one cannot express to one’s beloved? One scatters it all over, so it lands like sparkle and makes everything shiny and beautiful for one immortal moment.
— The writer is a filmmaker & author.
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