Covid-19 Brought Us Back Together
Alice Snape rekindled an old friendship, and she owes it all to Covid-19
We hadn’t spoken to each other for two years, but now social distancing and self-isolation might just be the thing that rekindles our friendship.
Two whole years without any happy birthdays, no “hey babes, are you okay?”, or “see you at the weekend, can’t wait”. No phone calls just because. All the sharing of the tiny details of our lives, gone. Abandoned like the good morning texts and weekend sleepovers.
We met in a registration queue during freshers’ week at Sheffield Uni back in 2002. Eighteen years – a lifetime – ago. She gave me half her cheese and pickle sandwich because we were waiting so long. A small act that I will never forget. An act that feels so alien now “social distancing” won’t allow it. I mean, who would accept a sandwich from a stranger now?
Then it was a tiny gesture of generosity that marked the beginning of a friendship so strong and enduring that we called each other surrogate sisters. We got married on Facebook and declared that we would never, ever divorce until we actually got married.
The thought of either of us getting wed – you know IRL legally binding marriage – felt as far-fetched and removed as a global health emergency that has us all locked indoors, saying phrases like “social distancing” that feel as dystopian as the novels we were studying for our English Lit degree.
She was the first person I would call about anything: happy or sad, stressful or life-changing. We went on girly holidays, we confided our innermost secrets. We never judged each other. We got drunk together, the kind of drunk you could get before the fear of getting filmed and shamed on an Insta story existed. Our friendship cemented by tipsy rants and three-hour phone calls filled with heart-to-hearts and laughter, before the days of WhatsApp groups and emojis. When the internet was a creaking dial-up connection, forcing us to retreat to the 24-hour computer room together where we’d spend all night writing essays the night before they were due. Popping outside for cigarettes, energy drinks and pep talks at 3 am, 4 am… When 9am arrived, bleary-eyed, we’d walk across campus, clutching our printed-out papers, stapled together like our friendship. Then we’d celebrate with cider and blackcurrant in the student union bar. What hedonism and recklessness that seems now.
My most favourite memories, along with hushed gossip, jokes only we laughed at and linked-arm strolls. We knew when we were lying to ourselves and to each other, when we were okay and when we weren’t. We told each other the truth. The harsh truth that only the ones you love the most can speak: “that guy isn’t good for you”, “no, don’t text him again!”. I knew my best friend would call me out when I was out of line and be there for me with hugs and wine when I was down. Always and forever BFFs.
Until we weren’t. Because you see, the unthinkable happened. We fell out a couple of years ago. Stopped talking.
And, as they always do – your adult lives go in slightly different directions. Different jobs, different salary brackets. Different family values and different relationship statuses. Living in cities at opposite ends of the country, which may as well have been the opposite side of the globe. All the things we promised back in the heady days of uni, when our friendship was obsessive and all-consuming, that would never tear us apart.
We were naive to think that changing circumstances couldn’t break us up.
Because they did. When it felt like our friendship was as certain as the triggering headlines that now plague our newsfeeds, our relationship disintegrated. A few misunderstandings, arguments that got out of hand. Our different versions of events drove a wedge deep inside our relationship. When we tried to meet up, we both wanted an apology for how we were wronged – and yet neither of us felt like we were to blame. We passed accusations back and forth and refused to see each other’s point of view.
Now we’re living through a pandemic, the reasons we stopped talking feel utterly irrelevant. I can’t even remember what I blamed her for. What we argued over.
Why we felt we could no longer be part of each other’s worlds. Us suddenly not being in each other’s lives doesn’t feel right, it feels as alien as watching people hug and shake hands on the reruns of sitcoms that I now spend my hours watching on TV.
And so we spent two hours on a video call at the weekend. Two glorious hours.
The differences that had come between us are now gone. This virus we are all dealing with has no type, the playing field is levelled. The world is forcing us to take stock of what matters, what truly means the most to us.
You know when you discover you have a shared bond with someone? That you grew up in the same city or holidayed every year in the same location, now the whole world is on common ground.
And so we talked about the state of the world, our lives, our family. And most importantly, we asked each other if we were both okay. We didn’t talk about why we fell out – it no longer matters – instead, we told each other how much we missed each other. That we would have weekly WhatsApp wine dates until we can properly meet up – especially now that we live in the exact same city once more – and toast new beginnings and hug, wrap our arms around each other, and share a sandwich again.
It felt just like it used to. A gap that I didn’t even know needed filling. It made me realise we must find positives. Take hold of the things within our control, and let go of the things we can’t. Friendships, togetherness – metaphorical, not physical – are more important than ever.
This morning as we wake up to the harshest restrictions on our freedom that we have ever known, sharing a meme with each other about “literally living in a GCSE question” feels like we are back in this together.
And maybe our friendship will never quite go back to what it was. Perhaps it doesn’t need to – shouldn’t even – because when we come out of the other side of this pandemic, we will all – every single one of us – be changed forever, too.
But, please, let the legacy of this virus be that it brought us together…