Brussels: Musing On Friendship

Chandelier and ceiling covered in bug wings.

I imagine everyone defines friendship differently.   Different expectations, different dynamics.

I am exceptionally fortunate to have a handful of friends where distance and time have little impact. Friendships forged in childhood or adolescence take on new forms into adulthood and across continents.

Experiences, growth, circumstances, factor in reframing these long-haul friendships.

Ruani.

My oldest friend. We bonded in grade two.

It is quite the privilege to waltz back into someone’s life after an absence of years, and to pick up exactly where we left off the last time circumstance placed us in the same country, at the same time.

‘Well, you’re family’ she states, matter of factly

‘Yeah, I am’ I reply.

Ruani has opened her home in Brussels and is sharing her life with me for a week. She is rehabilitating me, and taking this role very seriously.

Whose cat deposits a red toy mouse on my bed every morning.

I am being revived.

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Lucy.

There are the friendships that comfort. She meets me in a gallery in Amsterdam; I’m getting picked up in 50 minutes to be taken to the airport.

We haven’t seen each other in many years, we have both changed a little, both been marked by experiences. She introduces me to her baby. Two minutes later I have an overwhelming feeling that I am understood. And that I understand her.

Me: This coffee is Ah-mazing

L: You’ve changed

Me: Coffee in Bengali is translated as ‘Nescafe’

L: Oh. That’s a bit of a problem.

Perhaps we understand each other a little better now that we have had some similar life experiences. She is a wonderful, cool Melbourne breeze. Funny, and so very clever, and we each understand where the other is coming from.

Lisa. Ali.

The friends at home, who connect me to my old existence. Who find my request to Skype the cat perfectly reasonable. Who talk to me about normal things, as if I’m just next door. Who make me feel that I’m not so far away, not forgotten, still relevant to their lives.

Stu.

The friend who reminds me what I’m missing out on. What I’m passionate about. The friend who reminds me who my best self is. The one who thinks of me at gigs when a particular bass-line drops. The one who will insist that my homecoming is rather large. Who I suspect is just a little bit cross that I have been away for so long.

The Honeymooners

Who greet me in Goa with smiles and a bottle of gin. That I’m not to share.

Y: We’ve had a little bed put in our honeymoon hut that you are sleeping on.

Me: I have a hotel

Y: I don’t care; you live so far away, now that we have you, you aren’t allowed to leave.

And declared me to be an exceptional Moon-crasher.

Vivian

Who welcomed me with open arms into her home, and introduced me to her Dhaka. Who joked that I was the second wife. Who articulated the expat experience in Bangladesh in exactly the way I experienced it.

Whose absence I feel keenly.

Sophie

The friend/sister who I know is there for me. This is the friend who will help me to be grounded and who will support me in every way to resettle when the time comes for me to come home.

S: Don’t worry. ‘C’ is still for Caroline when we do the alphabet.

Me: I should bloody well hope so. What were you going to change it to? C is for carrot?


When I finally do come home, I’ll be a little changed by my experiences. Knowing that I’ll be greeted with the open arms of so many spectacular people is humbling, comforting, and gives me the resilience to cope with the harder days. I’ll be a bit different, you will be a bit different, our friendship will be a bit different. But it will still be solid.

And I’ll be home.

And the coffee will be Melbourne coffee.

And the volume will be turned up to 11.

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