I lost my laptop in an Uber recently. And not just any laptop, my work laptop – never to be seen again. No goodbye, no “only joking here I am on Find My iPhone”, no “it’s not you, it’s me” – simply gone.
Between bouts of nausea and humming along to various Uber on-hold tones, I did what I do in many emotionally terse moments: message everyone on my WhatsApp for warm words of encouragement, advice on moving countries, a light introduction to insurance fraud or a laptop they might be willing to give me – whatever I could get my hands on.
There were pragmatic replies and kind commiserations; cry-laughing emojis, and “this is not surprising” slanders – for obvious reasons, those friends have now been blocked. I gravitated towards conversations about insurance like you would a friend’s chips as soon as they’re placed on the pub table. One friend started photoshopping laptops into pictures of me with the caption “fixed it” and another called this “hot girl behaviour” which was completely unhelpful but comforting nonetheless. It felt good to remember that even at my most incompetent, there were people in the world who would still remain a fan of me.
Friends are a shot of serotonin in human form; a rose-tinted filter onto a world gone awry; a brief reprieve from rising energy prices and an endless supply of jokes that you can literally steal to appear funnier in front of your other friends. They know what memes make you laugh, which flip flop brands make you cry, and they tread the tightrope between tease and taunt, soft and stern, silence and hysterics with the deftness of someone who actually read the instruction manual before trying to set up a TV.
These bonds come in all shapes, but rarely the same shoe sizes. They tell a different story of you, of them, of your shared existence. There are epic odysseys and happy little haikus; all-consuming allegories and will-they-won’t-they fables; limericks that weren’t long for a reason, and sonnets that somehow stretch over a lifetime.
There are work friendships, 99.9% of which are formed in the seductive haze of the smoking section. These start with a look – one of you is on the cusp of revealing the office gossip you shouldn’t, and seconds later, the deal is done. You will subsequently discover that you share many a hobby, like eating Haribo, pushing the boat out on a Tuesday night, or abbreviating the same words to the point where everyone thinks you are speaking in tongues.
There are cosy companions that come over to do Sunday Things like stare at the wall or trial new salty-sweet snack combinations, providing soothing commentary that’s as necessary as the task at hand. This friend crosses over to the night-out category approximately twice a year because they are simply too powerful in an after-dark setting. Turn your head for a split second, and they will almost certainly scale the walls, vanish, and reappear hours later with 17 new friends in tow and some tinted Shein shades happily askew on their face.
There are friendships that blow out with the breeze, boomeranging back when you least expect it. These friends slot back onto you like a piece of Lego and shortly after their return, you struggle to recall what life looked like when they were gone. Then there are new friends – the most exotic species of friends as they come hand in hand with the next and the unknown, with danger and delight – a blank canvas for all of your over-told stories and “just one drink” text messages.
There are fast-and-furious festival friends who you manage to scoop up somewhere between the bathroom and the dancefloor. You will profess your love for each other 700 times in the space of 20 minutes, over the course of which their vape will become surgically attached to your hand. Blinded by the brilliance of your future together, you will drag them back to meet your friends on the dancefloor, at which point you will promptly forget their name and release them into the night. The friendship may not have stood the test of time, but at least you’ll always have their triple watermelon cherry ice vape.
Then there are the encounters that do make it past the first run-in. I once spotted a girl having dinner at the same restaurant as me whose writing I admired and who I had chatted to occasionally on Instagram. Going off little more than her turn of phrase and glowing skin, I’d already decided that we should be friends but hadn’t quite found the text-based witticism with which to express this. Somewhere between a butterflies-induced blackout and two drinks bold, I walked over to the table, introduced myself, and finished with something exceptionally unremarkable like “I think we should be friends”. Luckily for me, it was reciprocated and I left with my dignity intact.
There are let-you-have-a-bite-of-their-food friends and support-you-in-the-comments friends. Best-friends-with-your-best-friends friends and you-can-use-my-toothbrush friends. Here’s-a-song-for-you friends and voicenote-so-long-it’s-a-podcast friends.
There are the friends that can navigate you as skillfully as they do their parents’ pitch-black kitchen after one too many drinks. They know exactly how to get hold of you when your phone is dead, what temperature you like to eat butter at, or that you have three stages of hair twirling – nerves, rapid thoughts, and a fresh cut – and that all three require the same response: please stop that. These are the friends who stay and sit with you when you’re sad, even when it’s way past their bedtime because it turns out that they’re a little sad too. And somewhere in the mutual blues – softened by dim lights, dim sum, and marshmallow duvets – you will lead each other towards a solace that beckons brighter days.
A great friend is one of life’s most devastatingly romantic forces. They can break your silly little heart with phrases like “I plugged in your
laptop phone cos it had low battery” or “I was just thinking about you” and then, as all good friends do, they put the pieces back together again.