When I was thirteen a typical evening would involve me being on the phone for hours. I know it was hours because my Dad would frequently shout at me for it. Those hours would be invariably the same person, I know because I was only allowed to call someone for twenty minutes at a time and most of my girlfriends had the same rule. Blue Eyes did not.
The other question that I remember my Dad shouting at me was “What the hell do you talk about anyway?”
I remember being unable to articulate that one, he would often follow it up with , “You spend all day together at school, can’t you talk then?” which I always thought was unfair as we rarely sat next to each other if we were in the same class and even if we were sat next to each other you couldn’t exactly talk in class. Or you got detention if you tried.
When I got into my horribly medicated bath this evening (I’m suffering pretty badly with eczema at the moment) I put a plea up on facebook for people to cheer me up. Moments later Blue Eyes rang.
What did we talk about? We gossiped a little bit, tried to remember the names of various people coming to a reunion that’s happening in August, discussed politics, less philosophy than we used to although possibly just in different directions, some Doctor Who, time travel and physics. Above all we reminded each other why we used to spend hours on the phone, we have almost diametrically opposing views to each other in most areas, but we are not hypocrites, or we try very hard not to be and for both of us that counts for a great deal.
When we were thirteen our conversations would go on for months, now it’s twenty years later and we talk once or twice a year, some part of those are touchstones and some part new ground or old ground in new ways. Our relationship is very deliberate and I’m fascinated by it’s deliberation, we went through a stage of describing ourselves as ‘Best Enemies’ at some point in our adolescence, a little later, more disastrously (in a relationship involving a date to see Spiceworld) we tried the boyfriend/girlfriend thing. It was telling perhaps that the thing I loved most about that relationship were the phonecalls – which had to be made to and from the payphone at the other end of the village. I can’t remember why, but I do remember Dad being furious both with my phone usage and my relationship choices during my teens so either reason really.
The worst mistake I made was suggesting we get together romantically, that wasn’t actually the mistake per se, but the resulting teenage breakup really was. The worst thing that I remember though was not being able to call him, I remember comparing it at the time to having somebody close to you die. I’m actually going to stand by that comparison having now had people close to me die, that moment of going to dial their number and suddenly realising that you can’t, that you can’t speak with them, ask their advice, tell them that they’re entire life philosophy is utterly selfish and listen as they agree with you and stand by it anyway, that is one of the worst losses I had. I remember the utter heartbreak of it.
I feel in love with this guy twenty years ago, that’s a long time, I can honestly say that I still love him, as long as you remember that love is a multi-faceted and beautifully complex thing. I would still count it as one of the worse parts of my life if I had to never call him again to talk or knew that he would never again call me. There are many relationships that I’ve had over the years that I could call shaping or character forming or whatever but this is the one that we still choose to be ongoing and in a very similar form to the way it started. It’s not only deliberate but it’s very consistent and I’m struggling to think of any other relationship outside of my family that has those qualities. In fact I don’t think that I can.
We diasgree on so many points in life and yet we still call each other every so often because we want to know what the other thinks sometimes, we want each other to be there in our lives, on the end of a phone. I think it is one of the most deliberate relationships in my life, an agreed mutual interest and companionable conversation. So this phonecall in our thirties on autism, Carl Sagan, Desiderata, the Doctor, capitalism (an old favourite), the NHS and commercial schools and I can’t honestly say that it was that different to the conversations we had twenty years ago, other than we have read a lot more in the intervening years and have more citations and reference points. We also have to stop and go back a great deal more because alcohol. Ribena and lemonade never had that effect.