“Beaucoup de gens entrent et sortent de ta vie,
Mais seuls les vrais amis y laissent leur empreinte.”
Some things do indeed mature with time. Friendship is one of these. Among my most treasured ones is the friendship I share with a girl who went to the same kindergarten with me in Colombo, Sri Lanka back when we were still kids and knew nothing about the world and what the future held in store for us. Twenty years later, we found ourselves reunited on another island, in a completely different part of the world, again as students of the same institution — albeit at the opposite end of the educational level spectrum now — and happy to begin a new chapter of our old friendship.
It has been fantastic having my childhood friend near me here in Cambridge. We have had many opportunities to travel together around Europe (to Czechia, Italy, and Slovenia last year) and to also enjoy some of the more treasured moments in our daily lives like sharing a crêpe, shopping at TKMaxx, spontaneous film nights (at the actual cinema), and simply cycling around this beautiful city together. We have learned new things from each other: from me, she has grown to be more self-reflective and to be emotionally aware; from her, I learned to live in the moment and to exercise less inhibitions when faced with opportunities that might never return in our lifetime. We have also learned new things about each other as not only friends, but also as lovers, sisters, daughters, colleagues, and compatriots — things that show the best and the worst sides of ourselves in this multi-faceted personality we inhabit.
We have found immense support in each other in the comfort of our homes and also at random crossroads by the traffic light. One winter evening, we were returning home from the Queens’ Library, and walked our bikes right to the point where we were due to part ways at the St. Andrew’s Street, Regent Street, and Downing Street T-junction. Though it was already way past midnight, we stood there holding our bikes, still continuing our conversation and sharing our excitement and anxieties on our first foray into the realm of romance with men now long gone in our lives. It was Saturday night and rather bustling still at 1a.m., but being lightly accosted by heavily drunk passers-by did not deter us from extending this odd rendez-vous many minutes longer. When we finally parted ways, I promised her that this moment — and in particular, this conversation — is one we will remember for years to come.
The most meaningful of relationships are always based on a shared history. It is this gradual sharing of time, information, and experiences with one another that creates intimacy, of whatever kind. I recently printed a collection of photos from our time and travels together, intended as a birthday present (though one-month late in the making). I decided to write in the accompanying letter my exact intentions for doing this (and for taking such a long time with prepapring a present): I want, perhaps twenty years from now, for us to be able to meet over a glass of (non-alcoholic) wine wherever in the world, and to cherish the good and bad times we’ve been through together right here, right now in Cambridge, perhaps in the prime years of our lives.
We are indeed at a very interesting stage: we are no longer “young” (though perhaps a little youthful we may still be), yet we are still trying to get our feet on stable ground as we venture into the realm of adulthood. So where, exactly, are we? And most importantly, who do we understand ourselves to be?
Some of these questions are best pondered upon over a cone of cool ice cream by Lake Bled in the middle of summer, or simply on a quiet stroll through the historic town of Cambridge as we walk our bikes rather than cycle home just to secure more time to continue our conversation. For time is never a sufficient commodity when in the company of a beautiful soul as that of an old friend.