Winnie Jiang

Warming weather and the flurry of pollen spiraling through the air are the clearest indicators that spring has arrived. Sunsets at 7 p.m., whistles of birds returning to nests and rainy days followed by incandescent rainbows form the mosaic of the season. It’s no surprise, then, that I think of spring as the most nostalgic of all seasons, full of memories that have not yet been oversaturated by summer.

This spring is especially nostalgic, as I think back to one year ago when the first COVID-19 case came to the United States, shutting down schools, stores and cinemas. As the school year came to a close, my Latin teacher shared a poem from Catullus XLVI, and the last lines have stuck with me deeply.

“O dulces comitum valete coetus,

longe quos simul a domo profectos

diversae varie viae reportant.”

“Farewell sweet bands of fellow friends

Whom having set out far from home at the same time

Different paths bring back again in various ways.”

The poem has many meanings, but I choose to interpret it as a commentary about friendship. The genuine friendships and relationships we’ve cultivated throughout school and other avenues will always remain a part of us. There is no pomp and circumstance required. Then it comes to fellow friends, you are bound to find your paths crossing once again. While a cheesy and cliche lesson, I’ve found that it has stuck with me as I think about my past and current friendships.

While there are numerous songs speaking about the love one feels in a romantic relationship, there are few that attempt to describe the love between friends (though Maude Latour’s latest release is an exception). Understandably, the process of articulating friendships and platonic relationships is difficult. While romantic relationships often have a clear starting point, rarely are the beginnings of friendships ever distinctly defined. While I could tell you when I met my best friend, I cannot tell you the moment when we became friends. Perhaps it was when she gave me a ride home from school that one time, or when we ranked all of our favorite rom-coms. Or maybe it was the moment in class when our teacher was talking about something serious and heartbreaking and we randomly looked at each other across the room, and suddenly it was an asthmatic struggle not to burst into laughter while our teacher lamented over her recently deceased dog.

With my best friend in particular, much of our relationship, like many others, relied on consistent communication. If I saw a funny meme, it was imperative that I send it to her immediately. If something mundane happened in second period, she had to know before third. Midnight thoughts, awkward dreams, melodramatic hypotheticals — just when we thought we’d run out of things to talk about, one of us would mention a random tidbit and we were back. Even with the onset of the pandemic, while I felt that I had slowly lost touch with some friends, my best friend and I were stronger than ever. We Facetimed, Zoomed, saw each other from our driveaways when we could. It was not easy, but it was manageable if you were with the right people.

And then we headed off to college. The challenges of remote learning and adapting to a new environment took a heavy toll on me. While I could always talk to her about my stressors, at a certain point I felt as though I began to sound like a broken record. New day, same problem. My texts to her became superficial: “lol yeah that’s really funny,” I’d send half-heartedly. What was worse is that I felt as though our conversations were forced; we were having them out of some weird obligation to save face. It came to a point where I felt as though even texting back was a chore in itself. What did I really even have to say? The well of our friendship had run dry. We had drunk up all the conversation. There is something tragic in the messages of two friends who have nothing to say to each other. 

It was only when I had a conversation with my mom that I was able to see things differently. She called me one night and told me about how my dad was on the phone all day with his brother, my uncle. It had been months since they had last talked, and yet here they were, speaking about the most mundane things on hours on end. It dawned on me that they weren’t speaking out of desperation or awkward obligation but rather were speaking because they had something to say and they wanted the other to hear it.

My friend and I didn’t talk for months. We both stopped messaging each other and stopped responding as well. There was no animosity — there was just nothing. One day, however, I had a really awkward experience in a Zoom meeting. I immediately ran to my phone and, like muscle memory, texted her, “you won’t believe what I just did.” She responded in a beat, and soon we were on the phone, no longer talking about Zoom but instead enthralled in a discussion about what Michael Cera movie we thought was the worst. We talked all day. I missed my PSET deadline. I could drop one of them, so who cares, anyways? For the next few days, we didn’t talk again. Then, a week later, she texted me about how Amazon delivered the wrong package to her house and how she spent an hour on tech support. That mundane topic spiraled into a five-hour conversation.

There is a belief that all friendship requires frequent conversation. That, at the least, you should be updating them about big milestones like relationships or jobs. But I’d argue otherwise. I understand that there’s a need to constantly keep in touch, but I find that that’s not as productive as we think it is. Adopting that rhetoric frames maintaining friendships as a chore, something you check off on a to-do list. Instead, it’s important to understand that communication should occur when things happen that are worth talking about. It can be life-altering events, or it can be about a bad joke you overheard on the bus. The obligation we hold within a friendship isn’t an obligation to constant communication, it’s an obligation to quality conversation. We must be open to the idea that our friendships will hold in the absence of communication. That our paths will undoubtedly cross again. 

Two days ago when I was outside working on an essay for class, I noticed how nice the spring weather was and I immediately texted my friend. She responded “omg i was literally about to text you the same thing — isn’t spring the most nostalgic season?” We hadn’t talked for weeks.

Aparajita Kaphle | aparajita.kaphle@yale.edu