The Love of A Friend

Author: Yugal SehgalOriginally published on September 19, 2020

This was one of those late night calls, one between 3am and 6am—a dangerous territory where lines blur and senses dwindle. Some of the most transformative and meaningful conversations take place at this time, and this was certainly shaping up to be one of those.

B and I, both in our early 20s, have been having these late night conversations for a while now, albeit irregularly. Late night because we live in different timezones, B is more than 12 hours away, but oddly it feels like this has always been our talk time. Our calls go beyond the general catch-up, easily lasting a couple hours each time. B is quite the talker, and I like listening to B. The other way round is just as true, we balance talking and listening like that.

We are, however, as different as two people could be. B can ring someone’s doorbell and run away, I can’t. B can pat street dogs and eat with those unwashed/unsanitized hands, I can’t. (Although I suspect B won’t do that anymore.) B can relentlessly scribble on your notebook while you’re working on it and be unapologetic about it, I can’t. B can give you unwanted hugs, I can’t. B can understand every single meme reference, I can’t. Oh and B can accidentally consume an insect and not care, I can’t. B is carefree like that. B can be reckless like that.

When I first met B, I was determined not to be friends with B. The audacity of B to be that extroverted; the sheer boldness of B to rally someone around, even strangers; and the maddening lack of hygienic etiquette in B, were reasons why I found B repulsive. B was exactly what I wasn’t, which was enough to drive me away. Yet here I was, 4 years away from that fateful interaction, engaging in one of my most profound conversations, with B of all people.

Artwork by the author. © Yugal Sehgal

Our call had gone on for a couple hours already and we now found ourselves talking about “closure”, whatever that may be, wondering if you even find it in life. We started digging around our pasts and concluded that you don't. One of us might’ve teared up a little during that particular process. “Closure”, we discovered, was a little too weighty a subject, so we decided to move on.

B and I frequently discuss sensitive subjects like that, partly because we like each other’s understanding of sensitive subjects, and partly because we gravitate towards them. For all our differences, our philosophies align strangely in a way that makes us see reason in our individualities, a way that connects us from within, beyond the shells of our opposite personalities. In each other we have found someone we can open up to without withholding, someone we can be vulnerable with. We share the same values, or as B often jokes, “We share the same brain cells.” I think of it as pure reciprocation.

To an outsider, it may seem like B and I are probably in love, and that wouldn’t be a wrong assessment. Love is where our equation becomes interestingly peculiar, however. What we have is certainly driven by love, yes, but love, I think, is easily misunderstood to represent romantic endearment. Our love is the friendlier kind, it’s more in the respect and admiration territory; our intimacy is more mental; and our attachment is more experiential. It’s enriching.

Curiously, “love” is often the subject of our conversations and this call was no exception to it. B and I, like most young friends, often ruminate about our love lives, or the lack thereof. We talk about the same issues differently each time, wondering if our ideas of love, the romantic kind, are even realistic; if our romantic ambitions are farfetched. We keep each other in check like that, or we try. It’s helpful.

Talking of helpful, I’ve been encouraging B to start listening to podcasts for a while now (particularly this series), and this time I doubled down on that effort. I realised B is not quite a podcast person—sadly, not many of my friends are—but it can be an entertaining and educational indulgence if you listen to the right stuff. The podcast world can make content consumption feel rather productive for a change.

I told B that once you get the hang of it, you begin to want more of it, to which B responded by saying, “That’s what she said.” (We are huge fans of The Office.)

B can throw you off guard like that with bawdy humor amidst serious talk.

Humor like that has been the essence of our friendship, especially lately as our lives have been tested in various ways. The challenges of young adulthood, coupled with the problems and limitations of the pandemic, have left us depleted, with little to be enthused or hopeful about. As if there weren’t enough already, the uncertainties of life have only exacerbated during these tough times, but humor has allowed us to find some solace in it all. We find comfort in our silly, if inappropriate, jokes, and we try to laugh our problems off if we can manage it.

The lockdown life, along with the long distance between us, has added a new dimension to our friendship, where self-discovery, internal conflicts, and lots of meaningful conversations have reigned supreme. To share that with someone, even if partly, is a nurturing act of faith and love. Being present for each other, listening to each other, uplifting each other, or even sitting in silence together, are pure acts of friendly cultivation, and if you have that with someone, go out of your way to treasure it.

When we reached the end of our call, we did not want to end it. That’s how we knew it had been a wonderful call. We haven’t quite gotten a chance to talk again since then, but we know that the conversation is going to be just as great whenever we do. After all, the true value of friendships lies not so much in talking frequently, but in knowing that you can pick up where you left off easily, whenever you do.

Yugal Sehgal writes about life, mindfulness, and people. He lives in India. Follow him and @drawcuments on Instagram.