This is a story about true love.
A few years ago, at the beginning of 2014, sometime in the miserable depths of winter, I went to see a play by my friend Vanessa Kissule called 'Love and Other Fictions'. I remember on line just hanging in the air, tangible and real enough for me to grab hold of and turn over in my head.
'Platonic fires burn just as bright'
This line struck a chord with me that night and I've been learning to improvise around it ever since. I had just finished with my longterm boyfriend and I was lonely. Desperately lonely. The end of that romance had been the end of a community and with that the end of friendships that I had cherished.
I realised that to move forward with my life I needed to invest in friendship the way I had invested in my relationship. If I really was going to ‘cherish’ the people around me, then I needed to love them as fully and as intentionally as possible. In the months that followed, friends became my family. If I met someone I connected with, I pursued them with feverish abandon. I would get their number and message them, invite myself over to stay, send them letters, care packages, anything to make them understand how much they meant to me.
The last few years have been tough but I am reaping the rewards of intentional friendship. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a friend who will cycle to Baker Street and carry your heaving, sobbing corpse into a building so that you can get the prayer that you need. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a friend who will call you at 4am and tell you to get your shit together. There are friends who come and see your shows even though they hate the theatre, friends who will stand holding your hand and scream into the void with you, friends who will buy you falafel when your heart is breaking, friends who will pay for you to go to dance classes, friends who will banter with you over WhatsApp for hours so that you’re stupid day job gets a bit less boring. Friends who will leave you voice messages just to make you smile, friends who will send you books that you need to read, take you to the ballet when your mind is racing, show you the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe and teach you how to love abstraction, friends who will read you poetry to help you sleep, friends who will dress you in a backless black dress to make you feel beautiful, friends who will come to the hairdressers with you and provide moral support for drastic restyles.
I've realised that love is not exclusive but inclusive and once my heart was opened to the possibility that everyone I meet might be significant, I started to see love in a whole new light.
It’s a platonic love, the kind that pulls at my heartstrings and is often too extravagant to express. The aches of distance soothed in soft pockets of handwritten letters, from the cobbled streets of Salzburg to the musty grandeur of the New York City Library. The assured Facebook message reply that lets you know that even if someone doesn't want you at 3am, they still care and hold you in their hearts. The bleary eyed breakfasts, the post-party, post-dancing long walk home, rice cakes and peanut butter in the kitchen, spontaneous dinner parties, the hug that comes at just the right moment. My biggest mistake was trying to cure loneliness by falling in love. I cured loneliness by investing in the people that love me and make me better, the platonic fires that often burn brighter and longer than any whirlwind romance.