“Mum, this is Kara. Kara, this is Mum.”
“It’s so nice to finally meet you,” my Mum says, hugging Kara tightly. “Zoë's been talking about you since she came home from Spain.”
It’s true. Kara and I met on a month-long travel writing workshop in Spain back in 2019. Of the 30 other young women attending, I became fast friends with three. Kara was one of those. Our little group got to know each other over endless jugs of sangria and as much pinchos as we could eat.
By the end of the month I’d shared a bed with Kara enough times to know that I could put up with her snoring. She’d seen me have multiple meltdowns when I lost my passport and somehow still liked me at the end of it. The forced intimacy of having to rely on each other 24/7 for an entire month accelerated our transition from total strangers to dear friends.
When we tearfully parted ways at Barcelona airport, it was with promises to try and maintain a friendship that we’d both come to treasure.
The odds of making it last weren’t great. Kara lives in a sleepy beachside town a few hours train ride from my home in Western Sydney. After a month of living in each other’s pockets we were entering the uncharted waters of long-distance friendship.
Back home, we discovered that we are the kind of friends who can go weeks and months between messages and still maintain a real curiosity and interest in each other’s lives. It’s not uncommon for our text chains to read something like this:
Hey! I read some articles today that reminded me of you
How have you been?
I’ll link you the articles, I reckon you’d love them.
I LOVE THESE ARTICLES!
How have you been?
How’s uni going?
Oh, and how’s that guy you were talking to?
We have no qualms about the double, triple or even quadruple text. Despite the distance between us, when Kara’s name comes up on my phone, I’m still excited to hear her news. The ridiculous reaction photos she sends me when I send her my news tell me she feels the same way.
That’s not to say that the long-distance part of our friendship doesn’t occasionally get in the way. When the pandemic hit it forced us to get creative about how we kept in touch. I surprised Kara by having a gift delivered to her house for her birthday. As lockdown dragged on, I began sending little notes and pieces of art in the mail. Kara would call me regularly to talk for hours. In those gestures of love, it felt like the mysterious thread of friendship that had tied us together on the beaches of San Sebastian was still holding us together even as the world around us felt increasingly unpredictable.
When one of my longest-standing friendships unexpectedly broke down earlier this year, Kara was the first person who heard the whole story. Removed from the people and places involved, she was the only person I felt I could trust to share my true feelings with. I knew that she wasn’t going to bump into anyone involved and accidentally drop information that I didn’t want to be shared.
As the situation deteriorated, I texted her after a particularly intense appointment with my psychologist. She replied almost immediately telling me to fix myself a cup of tea and eat some chocolate (Kara’s fix for everything). As soon as she got off work that night, she called me to check in.
She listened with the patience and empathy that I so desperately needed. And she gave me such heartfelt encouragement that I felt buoyed by her love.
I’ll admit that I’m surprised that our love for each other has not wavered in the two years since our relationship transitioned from an intense overseas trip into a steady long-distance friendship. We are such different people – a born and raised city slicker and a beach babe. We have polar-opposite interests – Kara’s a science student and I’m an arts graduate. She is the extrovert to my introvert. We shouldn’t work. But somehow, we do.
This weekend, Kara came to visit me. It had been more than five months since we last saw each other. Gloomy weather meant that the hike we’d been talking about doing wasn’t on the cards. Instead, I brought her home to meet my family.
We had a cosy day at my home together. My Dad made tea and my Mum baked scones. Kara and my brother chatted about their shared experiences working in schools. And sitting there at the kitchen table with her, I realised that even a long-distance friendship can feel like home.
You can follow Zoë on Twitter @Zoe__V.