Where have you gone?
We’d stand on a railway overbridge, rest on a bench, stroll on a beach or go lie down on a mountain, and enjoy a long, unpredictable journey down the highway of words. Leaning towards each other, heads nodding, hands aflutter. Your eyes would glaze into emptiness as you rambled through the wilderness of your thoughts, then find their way back to latch onto mine, when it was my turn to wander. The expression on your face as our conversation grew into something beautiful, was beautiful.
You missed trains, skipped meals, overshot bus-stops and took the long way home, anything; anything to prolong a promising encounter. You never let differences in age, sex and background impede you. You were the one who’d chat with my mum. You loved sunsets, and banished sleep until the first rays of dawn. Above all, you loved coffee.
You never understood how conversations began, nor did you care. Perhaps music and alcohol helped; usually not. You cursed your phone after a dropped-call and never understood why anyone would opt for a prepaid plan. You were aware that not all conversations start off with a purpose, but often end up creating one. And once we started, our phones would be silenced but our hearts would sing.
You always ventured beyond sentimental reminiscing whilst speaking of the past and jumped off the cliff of foreseeable certainty whilst talking about the future. Your words were shaped by the ones you’d just heard. Your opinions were strong, but not immutable. I smile when I remember the mounting excitement on your visage, which you struggled to supress while waiting for me to finish, before bursting forth with your response. You understood better than anyone that listening without interjecting is far more difficult than speaking without ceasing. Silences never made you uncomfortable. There is a time to talk and a time to think.
You approached all conversation as art, where creativity lies in the form, not the content. You recognised the rhythm in sentences and the melody in dialogue. You painted pictures with words and sculpted ideas out of thoughts. You valued original thought above all else.
You fiercely believed that every word stands for something, and stands for something. That one cannot arbitrarily replace another. That it means what it means, whosoever utters it. That dreams are open to interpretation, but words are not. That hidden somewhere in the haystack of your vocabulary, there is one word which encapsulates exactly what you want to say. You would torment yourself until you found it, and smile with relief when you did.
You respected conversational etiquette. You joined conversations, didn’t hijack them; you participated, not dominated. You never lectured, hectored or ranted. Your questions were intended to probe, not hurt; direct, not shame. You never forgot that discussion, debate and argument are all emotionally heightened versions of the same entity.
You wielded responsibly the deadly, potent power of speech. You trod carefully through the minefields of allusion, metaphor and deliberate vagueness. You never hopscotched over the fine lines between sarcasm and cynicism, humour and mockery, asperity and arrogance, retort and repartee. You considered nothing trivial but small talk, revealed freely short of gossip. You played Seek with clarity, Tag with logic and Blind Man’s Bluff with inspiration. Your words were the trees that blossomed in the orchards of your mind, destined to wither as ashes lost to the wind, or priceless thoughts seeded in other soils.
Our friendship was born of banter. We both cherished the happiness of being perfectly understood by another soul. The more we spoke, the lesser we had to speak aloud. But we knew that conversations never end; they only pause.
You made me dream. You made me want to write down the things you said. You made me understand myself better.
Come back, come back, wherever you are.
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