One of those ‘Two of your friends are hanging off a cliff…’ dilemmas

I have two friends.

(I have more than two friends.)

But this post is about two friends.

Friend A is someone I met through one of my jobs. Sweet, funny, has taken me on as a bit of an adopted sibling. A friend I see fairly often, though not as much as I’d like. A friend I made at the company Christmas party, when we discovered that there were some common words in our native languages and alienated everyone else at the table by talking about religion. A friend who calls me when I haven’t called, checks up on me, makes sure our friendship carries on. A friend who ate breakfast with me every morning for the best part of three years, who teased me mercilessly for being afraid of spiders, who learned some Romani just so I could have someone to say sar san? to. A friend who reads me poems written in a beaten-up notebook, tells me my future from tarot cards spread out on coffee shop tables, asks me for advice and gives it in return, knowing I’ll ignore it and then say I shouldn’t have done later.

Friend A is in hospital.

Friend B is someone I met at art college. The day we met, I broke Friend B’s favourite mug and stood marvelling at the extensive collection of dead things in little drawers in the bedroom. Friend B is a friend who understands bits of me that other people don’t see, because they haven’t known me for long enough. A friend who loves me, and whom I love, even though we have very few overlapping interests. A friend who once came and rescued me when I got stuck at Old Street after my gig got cancelled at the last minute, who topped up my Oyster card, took me back home and bought me a curry. A friend with whom I have so many in jokes that the landscape of our conversation is practically impossible for an outsider to navigate.

Friend B has recently been in hospital.

I’ve just returned from two weeks in America followed by a few days in Brighton. I have two days in London before I fly to Spain.

Two days in which I’d like to see lots of people, but would particularly like to see both of these people.

I texted them both. They called me back.

Friend A might be free Thursday or Friday, it depends. Sounding cheerful enough on the phone when I call, I know something’s happened since the last time we spoke though and I’d like to meet up and find out about it. I can ask difficult questions face to face that I can’t ask over the phone.

Friend B calls a little while later, sounding distracted. There’s a hospital appointment on Thursday, in and out on the same day but probably unavailable in the evening due to the pain, isn’t sure what the other half is doing on Friday night… the sentence stops halfway through. I wait, wondering if I just have bad reception. A moment later, a laugh: “I’m fine, I just got distracted!” This happens a few more times. I start to worry. I worry quite a bit about Friend B.

Naturally, it turns out that they’re both free on the same day.

I’m desperate to see them both and terrified of making the wrong decision. Both of them are hanging on to life, in different ways but equally precariously.

I perch on the arm of my sofa and wonder what to do. I go over and over the decision in my head. Not usually an overthinker, this feeling is alien to me.

In the end I decide to meet up with the one who has less of a support network. Both of them put on a facade around other people, the same way I do, but one of them has friends who are at least aware of what’s going on. The other’s friends are, from what I can tell, blissfully oblivious. I am, I have been told on multiple occasions, the only one who understands.

I text them both, receive a “Great! See you tomorrow” from one and a terse “Sure” from the other.

My newly overthinking brain picks apart this message in the way it’s seen my friends do about texts from boys they like. Does “Sure” mean “Sure, sounds good, let me know when you’re back from Spain” or “Sure, I understand, you don’t actually care about me at all” or “Sure, something else entirely”?

I don’t know and I feel like I’m in one of those nightmares where two people you love are hanging off the edge of a cliff and you can only reach out to one, with no guarantee of having an actual impact on the life of either.

I’m just hoping the other friend will still be there, ready to take my hand, when I’m back.

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