This is a poem about loss. It’s not about loss in the traditional sense of losing someone who died though. This is about the loss of friends and friendships, which seems to be something has has afflicted me a lot over the years.
It’s a poem about losing touch and if I’m honest, probably losing interest. It’s about the transitory nature of friendships and how they grow, but also about how we can grow or move away from them, or them from us. I hope that makes sense. I suppose it’s about how they grow and how they fade.
It is, for me a type of loss though. I genuinely find staying in touch with people really difficult. This is partly because life is just so busy that if I’m immersed in my daily work routine or taking care of the everyday adventures of family life, I just get a bit lost. It makes me feel like an incomplete person, someone who’s clearly not a proper adult. Even while writing this I’m aware of the fact that I was meant to get in touch with my sister two days ago, as she’s unwell, but I haven’t done it.
My sister is an interesting ‘ghost’. I use the excuse that I’m six years younger than her and that we don’t have a lot in common – apart from parents and upbringing – but that’s all it is; an excuse. I really should keep in touch more than I do. And I get that these things are a two way street – she doesn’t call or text regularly either – but I need to be a better brother.
It’s a form of loss that really bothers me. I probably think about friends I’ve lost touch with most days, which would probably surprise some of those friends. Not all of them at once, but individuals will regularly pop into my head and it can make me tremendously sad to think that they’re only a call away, or an email or text and yet they might as well be on a different planet. Yet, something still stops me. Whether it’s the embarrassment, in some cases, that I haven’t spoken to someone in years and therefore I fear some kind of rejection from them, I don’t know. But I can easily envisage someone seeing my name coming up on their phone and just rejecting the call. It doesn’t give me a crippling sense of loss in the same way that a bereavement would, but it’s something that makes me feel a horrible sense of loneliness and guilt at times.
To my knowledge I’ve never lost a friend by actually falling out with them. I would say that in that sense, I’m a good friend. I do, however, seem to be cursed with becoming friends with people who then move away! Maybe they’re trying to tell me something. This has caused an awful sense of loss in some cases as well though. I desperately miss the friendship of someone who was only local to me for two years before they emigrated to another continent (I won’t name names, but they may well read this!) This was just someone that I clicked with completely and his loss did have an effect on me at the time that was akin to that of a bereavement. There are others too, that although I keep in touch with them and I’ve known them for most of my life, their absence from my every day life genuinely hurts. Texts and Facebook messages just aren’t the same.
Ghosts I think of you often; ghosts. Either re-living past glories or indulging in imaginary conversations in the comfort of my head. Keep in touch, we said. Sometimes you re-appear from the past and I blame myself, wonder why I went silent. The girl who got the job, became the boss is just a miracle really. The ghost who came back to life and helped to show you just how friendship works. Other ghosts are far too many to mention, without a crippling guilt taking its toll. I'll never know if it was me that drove you away, but I'll always ask the question. Keep in touch we said, and I disappeared like the dead. The one who vanished, perhaps hiding the shame of a break-up. I'll never know if I could have done more. Those who had the audacity to carry on living lives without me, some forever extending their hand, while I make excuses, ignore the calls, hide in these four walls, without ever really knowing why. Those who, like paper aeroplanes, were taken away by the breeze, and may float close by again, tantalising like the promise of a meet up in the sign off of a text until they fly so far that you'll never reach them again. Keep in touch we said, the embers now a dying red. Then the ones that saw you at your worst. These ghosts? You're forever in their debt. The one who scraped you off the floor, mended the first real heartbreak, talked you down, walked you round, held your hand, now relegated to the occasional like on social media. And don't forget the girl who looked out for you when work became almost too much, boosted your confidence, while simultaneously kicking you up the arse and telling you bluntly, to polish your shoes. She who mothered you, but when she left called you her big brother, still cast adrift years later without a reason why. Those ghosts we lost along the way, are no longer just there on the other end of a phone, but leave a million shades of regret, of things you never said, of sleepless nights, and the ever-present pain in the gut that reminds you that you could have done more, should have done more... Keep in touch we said but all that's left is in your head.
I feel that some of these ‘ghosts’ must think that I’m a pretty terrible person who just doesn’t care. I do care. I’m just awful at showing it and at keeping up appearances. Even when I get in touch with people I imagine them thinking, ‘what does he want?’ This feeling probably isn’t helped by people like my dad who regularly answers the phone with such witticisms as, ‘We thought you’d died’. Hilarious. Funnier still given that my parents rarely ring.
I know there’s a saying that the best friends are those you don’t have to talk to every day to know that they’re still friends (or something like that) and I definitely have friends like that. But I wish I spoke to them more. And maybe this confessional will make me step up my friendship game (as no one said, ever) or maybe one of them will read this and check in on me (please no U ok hun? type things though). Anything would be good in these times of not being able to meet up.
I hope you enjoyed the poem. And at the risk of sounding like I just ate a whole block of cheese, if it resonated in any way, maybe you could call that friend you’ve been thinking of lately? Cheeseball or not, I know I’ve got some reaching out to do.
As ever, feel free to let me know what you thought in the comments.