It was one of those weeks; lonely and depressing. I had been dragging my body around, like a broken limb, from errand to errand. Barely present, a husk of a person. I was looking out of the bars on my window, contemplating a second cigarette when my phone rang.

The only thing I hate more than phone calls is video calls because then, the caller can actually see how awkward and reluctant I am to take the call. This particular caller was one of my best friends from my younger, less troubled times. Perhaps those times were not less troubled so much as blanketed under the comfort of sex and other drugs.

I answered the phone. It was a one hour long phone call in which we dissected and vented over two months worth of life. That’s when we had last spoken, 60 days prior to the phone call. Sometimes I think that a sure sign of a good friendship, is that you can pick up right where you left off, no matter how long the interval. The phone call spawned two visits and a sleep over; new wallpaper to cover the rot and decay underneath.

I was looking out the window, my view of the dusty road and occasional car partitioned by cream coloured steel bars. I felt better. I didn’t need that first cigarette at all. More significantly, I didn’t need to get back to the chatting. The Whatsapp thread had been going for a week, nonstop. Wakeup, tap-tap, eat, tap-tap, chores, tap-tap, shower, tap-tap, switch off the lights, tap-tap, tap-tap, sleep and repeat. I didn’t need to discuss a possible sexual rendezvous with a man of dubious character. I no longer needed the solace, meagre though it was, of an inchoate virtual relationship with a man whose vital organs were otherwise engaged but whose genitals were angling towards me. I was content.

The rare experience of contentment got me thinking. I had forgotten the value of a true friend. I am so plugged in to apps and sites and information and alerts and work that I’m not really connected to anyone. Friendship needs to be cultivated. It needs time spent together for the seed of affection to germinate. It needs care and fertilizer in the form of favours, conversation and silence shared. It becomes that evergreen on the lonely road. When I am weary of this world and its struggles, I sit under the tree and enjoy its shelter from the scorching abrasiveness of this world. I sample its succulent fruit and quench my thirst for companionship. I climb up, lie in the branches and find again the strength to hit the road.

My mentor once told me that it takes 1000 hours to form a friendship.

Let’s do some math:

If in one busy week you get 3 hours with your friend,

                               1000 / 3 = 333.3 weeks

There are about 52 weeks in a year. If you need 333 weeks,

                               333.3 / 52 = 6.4 years

You need to know someone for approximately six ACTIVE years.

I like to tell people that I have only four friends. I am little stingy when it comes to assigning that designation and with good reason considering the math.

I’m on the clock are you?

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