The sun is coming up and I’m in the kitchen, making my first cuppa of the day. On the radio Low’s ‘Just Like Christmas’ begins to play. There’s a moment of irrefutable resignation: this song has altered in resonance from the last time it was heard. It will now be forever associated with someone who, this year, was sued over something that was said on the Internet.
Let me tell you the story.
I’m not even sure where we first met: was it Usenet? Possibly, it could also have been LiveJournal, but that would have been during its very early days. At that point he was living in the South West; we regularly emailed each other. They were funny, interesting and enjoyable communications, yet the truth was very apparent. His interest was, it transpired, only relevant until I was married. Then, silence.
In the midst of what I thought was a friendship, he sent me a Christmas CD. It was, it must be said, a work of utter genius: songs I’d never heard before, impressive pieces including Low’s song, which immediately became synonymous with him. It was only years afterwards that the truth became apparent: it was not a hand-picked, curated selection. He’d copied it from someone else. Melody Maker.
When his name turned up in my Twitter feed this year I won’t lie, it was a surprise. Looking to see what had caused this, then it wasn’t. He was always unspoken, edgy, set in his ways, even back then. We were friends because he let me, I realise now. If there were any genuine care and sentiment that existed, I’m not sure I’d be able to judge it as such. Suddenly, knowing this past made an immediate connection with the moment.
What this makes me grasp is that having fulfilling friendships with anyone online is dependant on two way honesty. If you’re not regularly communicating with someone, like every day, yes you can be friends, but… it only works if you’re giving as much as the other person. If all that happens is taking, if that relationship is largely passive? No, they don’t care about you unless you see them do it.
Sure, you can meet IRL once a year and it will be as if nothing changed, but to do this there is a fundamental part of yourself which needs to be given away, willingly. You can’t do it in letters, or emails, or blog posts. It doesn’t happen on Facebook or in Tweets. I’d need Skype and just you, tea and cake, actual physical interaction to move friendship past words on a screen.
I never met him IRL, and know why. If it had mattered, we would have kept in touch, and if that had happened there’s a better than average change I’d have distanced myself from him a while ago. In the end, his intractability was attractive as a discussion point but impractical as a basis for friendship. I’ve met people across all sexes who are like this. Sometimes, like it or not, you have to yield, or nothing is possible.
I hope, by writing this down, Low’s song will stop giving me a burst of melancholy every time it’s heard from now on… but maybe that’s a good thing. It can be the warning that occasionally, stuff just isn’t meant to happen, however much you’d like that not to be the case. You won’t be friends with everyone, and it’s a waste of effort to try.
You accept the loss, and move on.