When we were at school a best friend was made up of mostly one thing. Time. You’d spend all day together, chins propped on palms staring at the board, legs sprawled irritatingly across the path outside the sports hall at lunch, then lope home to call each other - munching endless apples, feet dangling over the side of the bed.
There was a beautiful, uninterrupted flow of conversation that never ended and never began. Topics would be laid down absentmindedly and idly picked back up minutes, hours, or even days later. You occupied the air next to them, around them. Nothing needed explanation or context because you’d been there when it happened. You just….hung out. Endlessly. Tumbling down strange verbal rabbit holes together, feeding each other’s fantasies, telling bedtime stories.
As you grew together, you began to lay the pebbles of days, weeks, months at the font of your friendship. A modest, daily offering that slowly turned into something monumental. Time was the only wealth we had, and we gave it all, willingly, to one another.
Then several things happened. Our friendship circles grew, dividing again and again the time we had available. Like cells multiplying in a petri dish, the space occupied by each one became ever smaller and more cramped. We got jobs, which made time dear and precious. We got phones, allowing us to plan our time with more precision. All this reduced our ability to protect the quiet importance of hours spent doing nothing together.
After revelling in the variety and social texture this provided, spinning from horse to horse on the carousel, I was suddenly struck by something. All I knew about friendship, all I had built them on, was based on time. Both of us finding those pebbles - those hours - and piling them quietly and methodically. But where was the time now to sit for ten hours on Sundays watching old episodes of Made in Chelsea? To sit in companionable silence with feet touching across the sofa, licking ice lollies? If we didn’t have time, what pebbles were we lining the beach of our friendships with?
Coffees grabbed hurriedly, with phones buzzing by our cups. Group chats. These are not pebbles. But if we have no time what can we line the beaches of those relationships with? How will we slowly build up coves of intimacy and understanding? Are we doomed to just skim pebbles at random waves, until they sink below the surface, leaving us with nothing more than a phone full of acquaintances?
In truth, I don’t believe there is any real substitute for time. It remains the building blocks of a best friendship. Time is the thing - and we have forgotten how to give it freely. We have forgotten how to just stop and hang out. But we can learn again - learn to stretch open your schedule and say - I give you this day, what do you wanna do? Let’s decide later...after one more episode of Made in Chelsea.
Written and Illustrated by Jess Bird