I was a freshman in law school when my friend Mike was accepted by a university in Australia for a master’s degree. He took up Finance, under a scholarship program given by a prestigious international organization. He had a boyfriend before he left, but they broke up because they both thought that they’ll be incapable of maintaining a long-distance relationship.
We’ve been close friends for a while, so we maintained contact, although mostly through chat. We spoke with each other about two-three times a week, and discussed everything and anything under the sun. Mike was usually tipsy, if not outright drunk. It was in Sydney where he discovered his fondness for red wine, especially the cheap kind that comes in a box.
Our conversations usually start with him sending me a private message just so he can complain about mostly inane, random stuff. I barely listened, since I was also caught up in my own worries then. Our conversations never really felt like actual conversations. It was more like we were delivering monologues, and the other person was just there for the ride. We both spoke, and neither of us listened.
I didn’t notice the inordinate amount of glasses of wine he consumed, or the constant stream of complaints he made. I also don’t think he noticed how tired I was back then, how frayed my nerves were, how wrong everything seemed to be for me.
But the fact that he was there was a comfort, even if he never really understood, or cared to understand, what I was going through. And it was a few years later, when he came back, when I learned that he felt exactly the same way. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t truly listening, or that I had my own concerns to worry about. The important thing was that I was there, and that was what he needed at the time.
(He told me he was suffering from a crippling depression, and could barely function as, well, a normal human being. In one instance, he did not bathe for three weeks, and was only forced by his roommates to do so because they could no longer stand the smell.)
And it’s funny because, to be honest, I wasn’t being a good friend at the time. But neither was he. We were both very selfish, and way too caught up in our own problems. But it didn’t matter. I was there when he needed me, and he was there when I needed him. And at the end of the day, that was enough for both of us to get us through those tough days.