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DISTANCES ARE NEVER GEOGRAPHICAL 

// So how did you girls meet?

WORDS BY LUDOVICA PARISI

Rome, 18 July 2015

I can’t recall how many times I have imagined this moment. I feel like a baby taking her first steps, losing balance every now and then, not knowing where she’s heading to. 

The city that is home to me now looks like a kaleidoscope of confused colours that resemble to unknown figures, eventually people. 

I look around trying to recognise those steps I’ve sat on millions of times. There’s the bar on the corner that sells overpriced espressos that I have no intentions to stop giving in and indulging in a cup. The carriage and the horses, aka the commotion caused by tourists fussing about. The fancy shops that—high key—I always wished I could afford to shop in. The iconic Fontana della Barcaccia which I’m not sure it is famous for being damaged by some drunken guy in 2007 or because it was Bernini who built it. 

Why does it all look so blurred and unfamiliar? I take a deep breath and shaken my arms. I look pale and agitated as if I am about to face death while I should be happy AF ‘cause hey, this is supposed to be one of the greatest days of my life. 

But truth is, I am used to feel in control of situations, to hold off my fears, to actually enjoy the journey even when I have absolutely no idea of where I am going. 

Well, to be honest with you, I am not enjoying this feeling at all. The nerves, the sweat, the loud voices around that just make my mind spin faster and faster; this is not what I was looking forward to feeling.

I take a few steps—the ones of a mature woman, hopefully—and I reach the meeting point. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the exact meeting point. The Spanish Steps are 138 and I’m not one hundred percent sure the text specified upon which one I was supposed to be waiting. And if we count the amount of people who sit on them daily, well, legit to say I could have waited there for a lifetime.

I find an empty space next to a couple of Chinese girls proudly taking photos with their pink selfie stick. I carefully pull done my denim skirt avoiding my legs to get in contact with the boiling pavement and wait for my verdict—presumably the greatest day of my life.

And maybe then, in that very exact moment, when all I was thinking of was that I should have ironed my skirt, I feel. Heart beating, goose bumps, shivers down my spine, everything all at once. When all my body seemed like collapsing, I see. My best friends.

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London, 31 October 2016

‘So how did you girls meet?’

I laugh hysterically turning my head towards one of the twins. Long wavy blonde hair and Bambi eyes coming to save me from the embarrassment. Shall we give them the official version or the truthful-movie-worthy one? The brunette seated next to me gives my hand an encouraging squeeze. Okay, the unofficial version it is. 

Well, it’s quite a funny story’ the fair hair starts off. 

I remember that day back in 2013. 

Rain was pouring on the window of my room. It was an early morning and the minimal effort of getting out of bed and preparing a bowl of cereals was certainly declared as the biggest achievement of the day. I grabbed my phone, crunching on a Kellogg’s flake, and started scrolling my Twitter timeline, as I always do when I’m either bored or looking for some relatable meme to share. As I came across different icons, one had caught my attention. It was a girl’s. Beautiful smile, pointy nose, biggest eyes I had ever seen and LOL, her tweet was actually hilarious. I had clicked on her profile and paused for a few seconds. I thought I knew her but nah, she was from New York—might have mistaken her for someone else.

We have friends in common’ I clear my voice. The brunette rolls her eyes, knowing exactly what turn the conversation is taking. 

Found out I had not mistaken her for someone else because she knew someone I knew. 

I must have commented some tweet or she did, or her sister twin did. You know how these things go. From favouriting and retweeting to actually talking and liking each other, it was faster than I even realised it.

Long story cut short, I liked them a lot, my new American friends. And I wasn’t aware of how many things we had in common, yet.

‘Friends? How can you have mutual friends when you live in two different continents?’ The curiosity of a Cleopatra look-alike, who joins us on the couch, interrupts us. Her sudden interest bothers me.

I might have skipped the part where we found out that we knew the same group of kind of famous guys, but that would be just too complicated, absurd—unreal for many. 

How we really met, that’s a hell of a story. One moment we were living our teen years like any other adolescent in the world would, the next we were getting thrown into the life of someone whose life had nothing normal about. Backstage residencies, broken promises and crowded after parties play as a background of a world that, despite being way bigger than us, we always felt like we belonged.  

Yeah, it’s a band. You know, bands travel a lot… But Twitter gave us a blessing!’ she continues, trying to divert the subject. We all look at each other, regretting giving everything but also nothing away. Time to make up some credible excuse to leave the party ASAP. Can we fast forward to the great rendezvous on the Spanish Steps, please? We are always so discrete about this topic; I can’t believe we’re exposing the whole story to some strangers at a random Halloween party in West London. God forbid there’s a journalist among us. Maybe that Cleopatra girl is as sharp as her winged eyeliner appears.

I fill up the awkward silence: ’Our friendship has no set date or location. Sometimes I feel it has been there since the day we were born. We just needed a little time to find one other—in the right country’. And it’s true, maybe some crazy rock stars brought us together, but the rest, it’s all our work. Different time zones, chaotic routines, university classes in-between and a healthy dosage of heartbreaks to spice things up. We have travelled with adverse circumstances to get to here. Today, this party, this flat, right here.

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New York, 12 August 2017

I once read, “distances are never geographical”. Hate to break it to you, but sometimes they are. They scare the sh*t out of us, making us lose track of what we’re doing, the people we are speaking to, the feelings we are dealing with. They scare us so much we become unable to move, to change, to live. We make up excuses to ourselves so we don’t regret what we haven’t had the courage to accomplish. But eventually, we do. Steadiness can instil safety but does this adjective have meaning if we never stepped out of our comfort zone?

So here I am again—clearly out of my comfort zone—walking down the steps—my lucky charms I guess—of the Peninsula Hotel in New York City. Years keep passing by, I keep changing, my hair colour keeps changing, my friends keep changing. The only thing that stays the same is probably the love and respect we have for one another. 

I think that friendship is one of the most precious, yet difficult states to preserve. Sometimes it triggers immediately, you meet that person and boom, feel the connection. You can’t control it you just know you don’t want the hype to fade. That connection provides a pure feeling of happiness. Constant excitement paints your days and improves the overall quality of your life. 

You suddenly feel understood, supported, loved, in the most inconvenient moments. 

Other times, friendship grows at a slow pace. Opening up, letting your deepest thoughts go, putting trust on a human being that has no genetic correlation to you, is hard, I get it. It means giving this new person the power to influence your emotions, the good and the bad. When you’re happy, that’s fine, you enjoy having him around. When you’re sad, well, you kind of need his support because isn’t he here for? When no one seems to understand, your friend does.

But I wonder if people really want to call into question their own decisions and behaviours when asking for a friend’s support.

Here I am, looking for an answer while I approach the lobby. 

What I see in front of the eyes is one of my two best friends, gorgeous in her silky slip dress and golden gladiator sandals, breaking up in tears as soon as she crosses my gaze. I feel helpless and tiny—more than I actually am (and trust me, I am very tiny). I hug her as if that could be enough and wait until she stops sobbing. I don’t know if I should say what she wants to hear me saying or be honest. I have been travelling the ocean to comfort her but the first option just doesn’t feel to be the right one now. 

It’s a friend’s duty to show you what you can’t—or won’t—see. To get a bigger picture of the whole situation, to make you put everything into perspective, to push you to confront your own thoughts, to defeat what damages you, to reinforce you. 

A friend can’t ease your pain unless you accept to listen to what she/he has to say and find the strength within yourself to heal. 

A friend can know you better than your parents, your sister, better than yourself, and no matter how hard it may be to make you understand, she/he will always operate for your own sake—even when you feel like she is working against you. But now, as I move aside my friend’s blonde hair to uncover her big Bambi eyes, I wonder how much of a good friend should I be.

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Santorini, 16 July 2018

‘If I could go back, I would have probably measured my words at the time’ I say, leaning towards the edge of the pool, tickling the water with my fingers.

‘You were just being honest. They call it hard truth for a reason’ replies the brunette while applying sun lotion on her legs. 

I turn to the subject of our conversation, ready to get executed because every time the topic comes up, we just seem to not understand each other as if we were speaking different languages—which technically we do, but usually communicate in English. However, this time, she doesn’t move or talk. Instead, she keeps staring at the sunset, waiting for it to turn into darkness, signing the end of another—long—day. 

So, here we are again, three young ladies, dealing with life and the issues it brings with it. I don’t even know how we got here, in Greece, considering the amount of sh*t we’ve been going through lately. I love how everything seems so peaceful around us when one of my best friend, still silent, has fire in her heart. And if I could really turn back in time, I would do things differently, because I know they say you can only learn from your mistakes but maybe now she would have found her own way to ease her sorrow without anyone forcing her to feel better. 

Loss and pain are personal states of mind that you only are able to process—accept. You can learn how to live with but overcoming them completely? That rarely happens. And I should have known by then that not even your soul mate, the one that knows you better than anyone else, could make you erase the rotten from your memory. 

So now it’s me, questioning the true meaning of friendship, which I thought I knew a lot about. 

What is a friend for? My answer is changed (confirming I know nothing about).

To listen, without necessarily talk or have an opinion in regard or guide you through.

A friend is your shelter, the place that makes you feel safe—away from the judgments and the fears. And to be honest with you, I don’t know how much of a shelter I was back in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel. My arms felt like home but my willingness to fix the problem turned into words that sounded sharper than a knife. 

If there is something I learned from that occurrence is giving time: to yourself, to your love ones, because time really makes a difference. And I know that when you love someone who’s hurt you feel the urge to cure them but sometimes your support—physical or mental, it doesn’t matter—is the most effective medicine. 

So yes, now more than ever I understand the concept of distance. It is never truly geographical because no matter where you are in the world, you will always be a shelter to someone.

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Words by Ludovica Parisi
Illustrations by Agnes Bic

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