I always find myself tapping my phone’s screen at midnight, watching my friends’ stories and scrolling conversations in groups that I passively contribute to. It’s amazing knowing that I’ve known most of these people for more than at least four years. I even knew some of them from pre-school. I actually enjoy watching them having the time of their life, laughing, partying, working, playing with their pets (or their actual human kids), or even just a snap of their day to day view. It’s almost like watching the future, because in my eyes, some of them are frozen in time.
Take for example one of my pre-school friend, let’s call her “G”. She and I went back as far as Jakarta riot, 1998, we went to the same pre-school and the same class. I used to go to her house to play pretend and messing with her brother’s toy cars. I still remember how obsessed she was with the movie Titanic, and she was the only person my age that I knew who could sing the whole “My Heart Will Go On” in perfect English. We loved Sailor Moon, I was Usagi (I had a short pigtails back then, ha) and she was Mercury. We continued to the same primary school and remained best friend until we were eight. God, we even had the same crush (my one and only real crush in my whole life so far, and he’s also frozen in time. I don’t want to talk to him again because I want to remember him as he was years ago. Pathetic, I know. And no, I’ve stopped liking him since middle school. Yes, it’s possible not to like anybody romantically for thirteen years). Until the day her family moved to another town in another part of the country. There was no internet, so we used to send each other letters and postcards. For some reasons we stopped contacting each other for several years until Nokia invented camera phones. We managed to find each other again and did a video phone. I thought it was going to be the first of many video phones, but we stopped talking again. And again. And again. She found my Instagram two years ago, and asked for my contact. She told me that she was getting married and I was invited to her wedding, but of course I didn’t make it because it was too far. And now, every night, at 11, I watch her teaching her son to talk. In my head, she’s still the same girl who talks about Titanic all the time with translucent pink glasses and silver watch with “2000” graphic as its main design (cause it was the millennium and it was cool). In my eyes, she’s still the same girl who’s waiting for me to finish my lunch to go to the main gate of our school together. In reality, she’s a mother of one with a loving husband and a culinary business.
Watching my friends grow means watching them going through phases, watching them falling in and out of love, watching them changing lovers, watching them from a distant, turning from running kids to lawyers, doctors, designers, artists, photographers, parents. And then thinking to myself, have I changed much too?
Watching my friends grow also means not saying hi to them on the streets, not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t recognise them in real life. I’m too used to their online presences that when they blend in with pure strangers they look like one. Watching them grow means feeling weird because I used to know some of them on a very personal level, and I still remember every detail, every colour, almost every conversation, every jokes, every fight, and every pinky promise, but I no longer talk to them. I just, watch them. Like a stranger watching another strangers moving places to places, slowly devoured by time.
Watching my friends grow means watching myself grow, and I have to adjust to that.