This is a love letter to my best friend. Would you like to meet him?
We met the first time in an ashram in Rishikesh, India in 1999. I had just celebrated my 20th birthday in the Rajasthani desert with a German girl I had met and travelled with. My clothes were sun-bleached, tattered and few after 4 months of light and swift travel from the north to south and back again. My body had just caught another tummy bug and I had lost weight and the appetite for chapatis forever.
After my friend in travel left for home I decided to go on one last adventure, a slow, inward and familiar one - something I had craved. I had stumbled across yoga through a book four years previously and it had been my friend before it was well known in Sweden. The book was well-loved and worn by now and I wanted someone real to teach me. I couldn't care less about the meditation bit though, preferring to watch the stars come out from one of the roof tops while listening to the pooja starting up on the other side of the Ganges. This while everyone else were sitting in a quiet dark room together for an hour. I had never skipped classes in my life, but it was time.
Shy as ever I hung out with a new found Finnish friend, but gradually spent more time with this British guy who smiled so widely and laughed so readily. We must have introduced ourselves over supper, though I don't remember more than staring at my plate and teasing him about his name out of nervousness.
A week or two went by - we would shyly exchange a few words and jokes after meals, during the brief gathering of people at tea time, after yoga class and in between meditation sessions. I snuck up on him from behind one afternoon when he was writing his diary, slipping my hands over his eyes, but apart from that nothing much was happening.
He was handsome, sweet, intelligent in a way I related to straight away, with a brilliant sense of non-sensical humour and a soft, gentle, humble manner about him that made me feel more comfortable and open-hearted than with anyone I had ever met in my life. However, I was cheeky but not brave. I had never had a boyfriend before out of painful shyness and sensitivity and being in a place with so many people was not going to change that. We exchanged addresses and I left before him, not sensing until then how much I meant to him, and how much he meant to me.
A year later, a bright yellow letter arrived. Waiting for those letters from Britain and eagerly writing back, gradually making a best friend, was one of the happiest times of my life. I'm not the blackest of sheep, but I've never properly fitted in anywhere and here was someone who spoke my language. The butterflies were speaking up too, saying go on, what are you waiting for? I visited him the first time that summer, after months of letters and emails but no phone calls. Meeting someone at the airport whom you know so well, but not at all, is a delightfully confusing thing and we've kind of continued in that vein ever since.
I don't know how it is possible to fall in love with someone you just met, though it was nine years ago, and still not know them, though you've spoken volumes, still have endless mischief left, though we should have grown up by now, laugh as if it was always this way, after all that we've been through, and get butterflies over hearing his voice on the phone, however little time we've been apart. But it is.