on human friendships

on human friendships
image by dall.e 2

What name shall we call someone you love dearly but also despise just as much? Someone you understand deeply but also perplexed by in the same measure? It feels to me that successful continuation of relationships requires some sense of defined feelings. That person X makes me feel like Y, so I Z them. And when the equation falls apart, the quality of the relationship deteriorates, and naturally, it must end. 

Yet ending relationships is perhaps one of the hardest tasks we face as thinking beings. I wonder, sometimes, whether the lion is sad after it’s eaten the zebra as their relationship must now sufficiently be described in the past tense. The zebra was grazing and the lion jumped on its neck. I wonder, as I write this down, whether, like the sky, it is possible for humans too to be in positive co-existence with others at all times. For the skies are never alone. If there is no sun, then there is the moon. If there is neither, then there are clouds… and usually after, rain. 

Yet it is occurring to me that humans somehow manage to float about in a sea of people, while being completely and utterly, and somehow, lonely. It saddens me… truly… that it is possible for two humans to not see each other's souls as they exist in the same space. Like the clouds and the rain share the heavens. I wonder if it is merely mental laziness or simply negligence that we fail to sincerely connect, which is the root of all relationship evils. I speak here of seeing each other’s uncanny liveness behind the eyes. I cannot possibly be the only one who sees this. It is the sense of being that hides inside the body but somehow beyond our physical world. It is the knowing consciousness, I think. It is the entity behind every single person I meet and every single hand I shake. 

Yet every person’s presence feels different despite all of us harboring this spiritual-like experience in our physical bodies. Point in case, I felt warm and present when I met Victoria in the elevator on Thursday. With Ahmed, a perfume seller in the mall, I felt respected and seen. And with the guy outside the kiosk with the burgers, I felt empathetic and called and ended up buying fries and chicken that I didn’t need. These are a few people from this week whose interactions with me have stuck by my mind’s heart, reminding me of the gift of memory in relating to others. It does not escape me that in my recalling of these people, I compacted the beginning of our relationships and the endings in a span of the few seconds it took me to note this down. That I essentially presented you with a summary of what our time together was like. 

Yet I didn’t feel particularly emotional thinking of them if I am to be honest. My sense is that they just didn’t have enough time to create an emotional attachment with me. For I have heard it once said, my dear reader, that friends are just people who have not disappointed you yet. I reject the superficiality of this statement, yet I will rephrase it to: friends are people you have not exchanged enough time with yet. For the depth of friendship has some level of proportionality with the amount of time transacted between the involved parties. And each of you can do whatever you wish with the other’s time. You can colour it with words or activities, both of which translate to thoughts, which, in my working theory, distill emotions. So time essentially serves as a seed to the plant that is you and yours’ relationship. 

Yet time in itself is a slippery currency for something as precious as human relationships to be valued on. Ever after nobody’s good while simultaneously for everybody’s pleasure. For time becomes malleable with intentionality. It stretches and contracts with concentration, with a little bit of focus we recall events of a time past and pseudo-predict those of the future. We bring to life items that will someday become artefacts and events that will someday become stories. But now, yes… in the present, we call them fantasies. We call them dreams, goals, plans. And because we name them, they trap us. Yes, precisely, because we set some expectation on how our time is to be treated, we risk the disappointment the phrase I shared refers to. 

Yet I wonder whether there is more to relationships than time. For it is possible to spend plenty of time with an enemy. To let your words and activities, then thoughts, then emotions, be consumed by someone you abhor. So we must expand our definition of the term “friend” then. A friend is someone whose use of each other’s time is worthy of positive emotion. Someone you look forward to talking and walking with under a voluntary give-and-take contract. 

Yet what happens when the terms of this contract are abused? When the so-called memories you made fade no matter how much you stretch and zoom in on the time you spent together. When the so-called words you shared sound like echoes of ramblings in the chamber of your memories. This is when the older parts of you still hold their emotional attachment to the other, but the current you does not. The time transaction has ended in words and activities, thoughts, and now your emotions are in no sensible order. And so your mind stretches and contracts the time you spent until the memories in time lose their elasticity. And now you’re stuck in a loop of jumping from one point in time to another, perhaps wishing that this exchange never came to be. But it was and always will be. And perhaps to name what you feel may not be such a good idea.