At a guess, I figure I drew the above picture in the first or second year of primary school.
That’s Emma, on the left there, with the red hair, wearing the black dress with two giant buttons and holding, what appears to be, a banana in her invisible hand.
I’m the yellow-haired one, with the red-splattered face, no arms and a lower body that looks like it’s been affected by a disease that separates it from my upper body.
Emma has always been my friend, my best friend in fact.
Before either of us could even walk, we already hung out, cruising around in a double buggy, pushed by our parents. I have a photo of us both, from around the same time; we’re both butt-naked and sat in a washing up bowl filled with water on my front lawn.
30 years later, we’re still such a massive part of each others lives, although nowadays, our friendship involves us both being fully clothed.
Throughout our childhood and teen-years, we lived across the road from each other in a normal street, in a normal town. We went to the same school; in fact, we walked there together every day, and each Friday, on our return home, we visited the local sweet shop, eagerly clutching fifty pence pieces and excitedly discussing what we would buy. Once our pockets were satisfactorily filled with sugary goodness, we would make our way home up the hill; I would walk backwards and slightly ahead of her, so that we could continue talking as we tackled such a steep climb for our little legs.
As we grew older, and sitting around in washing up bowls became a bore, Emma and I invented many games to play; our brains a busy hive of child-bright colour, imagery and fantasies. My Dad’s garden shed became our ‘home’ and her driveway became a prop for many interactive games, such as ‘boat’ and ‘fashion show’. Our favourite thing to play on the driveway was ‘factory’, which basically involved turning our bicycles upside down, wheels in the air, and furiously turning the pedals in circular motions. In our dream-cloud minds, we were spinning cotton.
As teenage-hood set in, Emma and I would skulk around together in a mist of moody angst. We were both huge Take That fans, and would spend hours watching their videos and scouring magazines for articles about the band. Emma’s Mum would often shoo us out of the house to ‘get some fresh air’ and so we would wander the neighbourhood, picking leaves from the trees and awkwardly staring at our shoes.
At the age of 18, I left home to live in France and America. Emma remained in our home town and we each followed very different life paths. Emma studied hard and earned herself a psychology degree, whilst I partied even harder and spent my days snowboarding and doing anything to avoid the grief of my Mum’s death. Emma was by my side during my Mum’s funeral, she’s one of the few people I can remember there. I’ve forgotten most of the details; shock deleted everything I experienced that day, yet Emma’s presence remains engrained in my memory. I can clearly recall the moment my Mum’s coffin was carefully removed from the funeral hearse and I literally felt my heart stop. My mouth opened and closed as a wrecking ball of immeasurable pain obliterated my body, yet I couldn’t make a sound. As I raised my head to steady myself, I saw Emma, who stood close by. As our eyes met each other, she let out the most powerful, animalistic cry I’ve ever heard; the grief was etched on her face. At that moment, my knees gave way and my eyes flooded with hot, salty, streaming tears.
In our mid-twenties, our life paths met once more. I returned home from France, suffering from crippling anxiety and OCD. Although we’d spent over 5 years away from each other and lost touch, the powerful force of our life-long friendship fused back together, and she helped me through one of the darkest times of my life.
On the 26th May, 2007, my birthday in fact, Emma got married to Emad, a man she met and fell in love with. She asked me to read a poem at their wedding ceremony; I was so very honoured. As I watched Emma say her vows in her beautiful dress, radiating happiness, I thought back to our childhood days, when we would ‘marry’ our teddy bears, joined by a diverse congregation of Sylvanian Families, Barbie dolls and a Girls World, and I felt such pride and joy in our friendship.
In the picture above, I’m not sure what the pink arc is above our heads. I’ve stared at it for quite some time, and I want to believe that even then, aged 6 or 7, I chose to draw it to symbolise the blanket of safety and trust that softly gathers around the shoulders of our friendship.
Thank you, Emma, for being you.