Sunday, 17 April 2016

To You, Daan

(Backstory: Contours of friendships and countries were never meant to be drawn out by man. Land and love run where they must, wilfully errant, incorrigible and responsible for the best poetry.  This To You letter is of a friendship and love between two people who admittedly would have been together had they not already been married when they met.
This is a birthday letter because mail was made to transcend distances and blur those damned lines of land and love.)

To You

The first time I met you I was a corporate fawn. A week old in that new organization.

I walked into your cabin to say hello, business-face and MBA head screwed on tight. That plan would've been executed flawlessly had your almost faded denim-blue eyes not disoriented me from the pitch I had prepared and rehearsed so well in my head. 

So I sat down and did what instinct had taught me best to do: I rambled. I rambled long and hard about my vision for the company and my role, outlining basics and emphasising on the necessity to focus on digital if we were to look at any growth. You patiently let me carry on, only to interrupt gently, what were technical definitions I was spouting at this time, to point out, “I do know a little bit about digital, you know.” I think my cheeks flushed an entire blood stream.

Moving to a new city while your friends and husband stay back in another is much easier in your early 20s than when you’re almost 30. Did people make new friends anymore? How did they do it? Was Dale Carnegie still relevant? I’m fairly certain that the dread of eating lunch alone in this city’s oppressive heat made me lose my appetite. Until you saw me, lone wolf around the office elevator and kindly said, “You’re not going to eat lunch alone.” Unlike what Instagram memes would have us believe, kindness isn’t being thrown around like confetti; which is why I remember that day and wonder how much of it you had in spades to take time out from your schedule as Marketing Director and eat lunch with me.

Being new to the city and the job meant I came in to work before others. So did you; to get a head start and some music into your day. Soon, over coffee, discussing favourite songs we stumbled onto a friendship, with me always hyper-aware of the food chain hierarchy over us, and you never, not in a gesture or even an affliction of a word reminding me of that.
I could attribute that initial connection to you not being from my country but kindness, grace and chemistry between two people is rarely culture specific.
I could give you a timeline of our friendship but in my head it’s like the riff of a fantastic old school rock-n-roll song: all guitar, a little bass, just enough drums and no lyrics. I don’t recall when we slipped into texting each other for at least an hour a day, but there I was on my phone at home with a pissed off room mate who was annoyed that our House M.D binge-watching tradition was being interrupted.

My 30th birthday in a strange city could’ve been meaningless but you and a few other friends at work made it into a carnival even my own hyperacid dreams couldn’t match. When all the champagne was done and the last of the revelers had left, I asked if you would stay. You did and we out-lasted the night,talking up until 6.30 am. Making me realize that if world leaders just hung out at night, talking and being vulnerable there would be more peace and definitely complete disarmament.

Which is what your eyes did to me the first time we went to dinner at the Korean restaurant. You took off your glasses and went from 38 to 25 and I had to recite the entire periodic table in my head, backwards, to will my body from not sending all the tell-tale blood to my face. Sometimes I think you deliberately and premeditatedly broke through my barriers. There I was, awkwardly handling chopsticks and telling you about my dreams, my relationships and all the questions I had from life. And somewhere in the too much talking and too few pauses we became us. A friendship so unique and special that I will body block anyone who tries to harm it.

My own marriage had a fractured limb and it was you, and our friendship that held my hand while I tried to slap on a plaster and work my way through the pain. You navigated me, like only you do, sternly, objectively and protectively through crisis after crisis. Your advice though never emotional was always laced with worry and concern for me: and that got me wondering how I’d made it through the 29 years before, without it.

You’ve moved countries, but it seems like we've beaten time, space and geography. At least it feels like that on all days other than the ones I want to meet you for our customary four hour brunch conversations.  I don’t know of a day when we haven't spoken, even when I whatsapp “BRB” and show up 5 hours later.

I’ve lived days of your life when you would put me on video so I could say hi to the kids while they ran around and you made breakfast for them. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve bugged you about the length of your hair because Nick Carter only barely made that look work in the 90s. I’ve forgotten to track the number of times your impish smile and truly sometimes-evil sense of humour have made sense of a harrowed day for me. There’s also a constant wondering why, like Michaelangelo’s David, must you think and pout at the same time?

It’s your birthday, best friend, and I remember today a story you told me of many birthday ago when all you got in the name of presents were socks. That broke my heart. So this year, for someone who loves words, I’m giving you all of mine:

Happy birthday blue eyes, I wish for you to invent finally that time travelling machine so we can fly back and forth in and out of each other’s daily lives, until then I wish for both of us to always have strong wifi.

Happy birthday friend extraordinaire, I want you most of all to be surrounded by love. To have the happiest marriage where when you come home after a hard day’s work, you know that numbers and targets are immaterial to what you have at home.

Happy birthday best buddy, more than anything else I wish for the world to reflect back at you trademark sparkling conversations, intelligence, kindness, grace and a limitless appetite for fun that only you have.

This is sealed with all my love,

                              (A.L sent this picture, it's from a brunch that wouldn't end, she tells me. From a Sunday that always makes her smile)

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you. The love letter can go with real names, back stories, as many pictures as you like, aliases and even super powers.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion. Give me a shout at: )

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