Listening to the sound of a friendship changing gear.
words Letty Mchugh, photo Antoine Henault
“Nobody really knows the difference between pyjamas and clothes, out of context,” I hear the 2011-me tell my friend, Becca. “It’s just a conspiracy to make us buy more.”
Listening to this, I see myself strutting the streets of Bath in jeans, clogs and a pink, brushed-cotton pyjama top, printed with cows in nightcaps. At the time I met the gaze of quizzical passers-by, smugly thinking, “Yes, this is the world’s most kick-ass shirt and you should be jealous.” With hindsight, I don’t think anyone was jealous. I’m sure everyone was thinking, “Why on earth is that girl wearing pyjamas?”
In May 2011, Becca and I both had deadlines looming for our creative writing degrees. As we weren’t getting any work done separately, Becca came round to mine so we could not get any work done together. I had just written essays on various conceptual artists for the art side of my course and was convinced that anything I did could be considered art, if documented in the right way. Four or five hours into what became the 26-hour spectacular ‘bed-in for deadlines’, I began recording everything we were saying. Nearly five years later, this is the first time I’ve listened to the tapes.
What strikes me is how little work we actually do; we type for ten-minute stretches before talking for two hours. I convince Becca to join Twitter so she can tweet Noel Fielding her dream about ground beef. Becca outlines her idea that you should only leave a marriage if you can find a person your spouse would be truly happy with to replace you. We take an hourly selfie holding up signs telling our 34 followers how long we’ve been in my bed. We discover rainymood.com and spend an age listening, enraptured, to the artificial rain. If procrastination were a super power, we would have been the world’s best superheroes.
The other thing that hits me is how I can hear our friendship evolving over the course of the tapes. I’d known Becca for over a year before ‘bed-in for deadlines’; we liked each other, hung out a lot. But in these recordings we change from pals into something more like comrades—blood brothers; blood sisters, I guess, though I can’t pinpoint the moment. Is it where I read Becca’s flash fiction that is still hands-down one of my favourite pieces of writing? Or where Becca forgives me for getting pus from the sore on my foot on the printout of that same piece of writing? It’s probably the latter.
I might start using that as a friendship test. “Hey,” I’ll say to new people I meet, “Theoretically, if I had a wound on my foot from an ill-advised pair of shoes, and I let goo from that wound trickle all over your writing portfolio would you: A, Be grossed out? Or B, Graciously offer to tell anyone who asks that the goo is from your ice lolly?” If they answer B, I’ll know that in five years’ time they’ll still be the kind of friend you can rely on to always text you back.
Find more stories of female friendship in our Sisters Issue.