The Would-Be Friends

We could explore the temples together, if I actually remembered your name.

I have a lot of conversations with acquaintances in bars—it’s very nearly a hobby at this point. I know a great number of people, and have no shortage of time in which to mindlessly and mutually flap gums with them. Often in these interactions, we are struck once more with discovery: we like one another’s company! Why, we’re quite the pair! We’re both such a gas. How have we not spent real, invested time with one another before now? We are both so cool, as we make sure to say aloud and with alcohol-tinged earnestness, several times. We vow to call each other soon, to have dinner or a beer or a deep conversation about geopolitics, and we even make the bold move to exchange phone numbers, to make it a solid pact. We’ll facebook. We’ll text. Email. Carrier pigeon. Smoke signal. By rain or sleet or snow, our missives will be sent and received, and hanging out will be had.

I never contact them. And they never contact me.

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Travel Partners: On Sunburns, Smelly Feet, and My Friends’ Poop

You guys are lucky I have stock vacation photos, and don't feel compelled to use more related pictures.

The sunburn was possibly the nastiest and most severe I have ever suffered. The merciless Thai sun had scorched me the colour of lobster, leaving most of my torso inflamed. I quivered when I walked, and wearing a shirt was an encounter with pain I couldn’t even comprehend. When I went to bed, I willed my body into early sleep paralysis and hoped I would not shift while I slumbered. But Bill was worse. His burn was nearly comical in its violence–his absurd hobbling and swollen joints would have been howlingly funny, if I wasn’t already busy howling from my own swollen and reddened flesh. Our daily applications of liquod aloe vera gel became fanatical in their frequency and provision of solace, but we would face trouble when it came to reaching our backs. If we tried to reach with our own hands, it would require the use of joints and muscles that would send us into spasms of pain. Soon, we accepted fate, and began regularly applying aloe to one another’s chapped, repulsive, leathery skins.  It was awkward and embarrassing and absolutely necessary. And after very little time, it simply stopped being weird.

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Friends Forever, I Guess

L-R: Korean from a bar; Oh crap, everyone else is gone; Toronto carry-over; person from airplane; me; temp roommate. Forever!

Dave and I hadn’t really been close in the first year. We lived in the same neighbourhood, and hung around the same people, and did occasionally similar activities–but we were sort of tangential people. We’d see each other at parties and be pleasant, but both of us were really too busy to put out the effort. “We should really have dinner!” we’d both say, and then be satisfied with the extent of our interaction and never feel the need to actually go through with eating. The Venn Diagrams of our lives had significant enough overlap that it was basically like being friends anyways, just without any sort of real commitment. He was not bad, and neither was I, but both of us already had full phonebooks and weren’t really desperate for more entries.

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The Friendship Buffet

Make friends. You have exactly five days.

Describing orientation when we first entered Korea, one friend recalled the experience as a sort of friendship buffet. Everyone put on their brightest smiles, turned their personalities up to 11, and became obnoxious, exaggerated parodies of themselves, creating a giant sea of Pauly Shore characters. It was a sort of, “And if you pick me, this is the sort of zaniness you’ll get! Heyo!” People marked their territories as different person archetypes, sought out others like them, and staked claims on the people they found coolest. They would spend the next year with these people, and they needed to acquire them as soon as humanly possible, lest they be left alone and, most horrifically, uncool-seeming in Korea.

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