Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Friends Re-Untied

I am browsing the pages of Friends Reunited, mentally totting up who I am now more successful than, when I see that Jules, a university friend, has signed up. He hasn’t put any details on, but I am genuinely pleased to be reminded of him as we were very good friends. We shared a house for a couple of years and even played in some bands together. I haven’t thought about him for ages, and I can’t remember how or why we lost touch, but I am sure that it must be mainly down to me.

We used to make each other laugh all the time, and I particularly remember a joke we had that ran for ages. If one of us wanted the other to do something, we would say, “If you don’t do X I’ll do Y”, where X was something like “come to the pub” and Y was a series of escalating threats that eventually culminated in the phrase “kill your kids and sexually abuse your dog”. This was the worst thing that our undergraduate minds could think of, and we found it so funny that we pretty much stuck at that. Analysed by an outside observer this is probably about as funny as any “in” joke, but anyone who has had something like this with a friend will know that it is the repetition and inappropriateness that makes it so funny.

These were, of course, the days before mobile phones, so we would have to communicate by leaving notes on each other’s doors. (This may seem unfeasible to young people now, but I am sure that we didn’t miss out on anything. I, for instance, had sexual intercourse at least twice whilst a student.) I particularly remember coming home from an unexpected weekend away to find the following pinned to my door from Jules:

7:00 Where are you? Are you going to the pub later?

7:45 We have gone to the pub. If you don’t join us I’ll kill your kids and sexually abuse your dog.

11:30 Consider your children dead and your dog sexually abused.

The more I think about Jules, the more I want to be in touch with him again. So I write him an email giving a brief rundown of the last fifteen years, and saying that I hope that he’s well too. And I have a great line to sign off on:

PS If you don’t write back I’ll kill your kids and sexually abuse your dog.

I am pleased with this. If somebody took the effort to remember a private joke from a decade and a half ago and re-deliver it to me in an updated context I would be very touched. Even if the joke was about multiple child murder and bestiality. That was what our friendship was based on.

I click send.

A few weeks go by and I do not hear from my friend. I am a little surprised, but reason that perhaps he is busy and doesn’t have the time to reply. Then I log back on to Friends Reunited, only to find that he has removed his name entirely from the system. I can think of no reason why somebody would do this. You can simply put your name on Friends Reunited with no details of your life. You don’t have to reply to anyone. It doesn’t even give your email address, so the worst that can happen is that you occasionally receive a forwarded email from somebody, which you can just delete.

The only explanation I can think of for him doing this is that he was so offended by my email that he gave up the possibility of any other friend contacting him ever just to make sure that he would never hear from me again. And the only offence he could have taken is at the PS.

What if his memory isn’t as good as mine and he has forgotten about our joke? What if it’s my memory that’s defective, and what I recall as something hilarious that ran for months and months was something that we just said once and moved on from? What if his children have recently been murdered and/or a much-loved canine pet has been interfered with?

Jules – if you’re reading this, drop me a line. If you don’t... Well, you know what’ll happen.