Darby and Joan are the quintessential middle-aged British couple, characterised by knitwear, hours of scrabble, and a penchant for staying in on Saturday nights. Darby and Joan are, in fact, Calum and me. I wrote my first letter almost a year ago. I was going to do it more often, but I was too busy taking the piss out his Lana Del Rey cover photo on Facebook.
'Is it weird that this is the stuff we talk about?' you said to me over Skype.
'What, punctuation and sentence structure and the rules of the possessive apostrophe?' I said.
'Yeah,' you replied. 'Should we be talking about willies and coke binges?'
We both reflected on the question for a moment.
'Can I just ask you something about what you wrote on page 13?' I finally said, and we laughed, because for us, punctuation and sentence structure and rules of the possessive apostrophe is as exciting as any sex story.
I had your package in front of me- pages from my manuscript you'd read and edited for me. After I had read your notes, I cried. It wasn't sad tears because you were mean. It wasn't happy tears because you loved it. Although, yes. Both of those things apply, you truthful bastard. I just missed you.
'I've never had a friend like him,' I told the girls at work as they handed over the package you'd sent to my work address. On the front you'd cellotaped two pictures of Jesus- one Easter image of him holding a lamb, and another of him on the cross with the image of a lion in the sky. On the note inside you'd written, I hope Jesus and Mufassa get this to you safely...
'He owns a part of my heart that no man had ever owned before.' I continued. 'When somebody understands your passion like he understands mine, it's all-consuming.'
'Well,' said one of the receptionists. 'He is your best friend, isn't he?'
'I know,' I replied. 'But I've never had a friend like this before.'
The receptionist smiled. 'That's why you can call him the best one,' she said.
Didn't you know that I worked with Buddha?
This time last year was the most difficult and the best time of our creative lives. We sat side-by-side for twelve hours at a time, writing and drinking Sainsbury's flavoured water, sweating and bleeding and sobbing over work we needed to produce in order to graduate top of our respective classes. And now the wheels are in motion for you to further your study in America and me in London, and it makes my heart sing with proud joy that we are both getting better and more determined with what we do every single day. GRAMMAR NAZIS WILL RULE THE WORLD.
And then I get the major sads because woah. We can't plan to be in the same city again until 2014, and who plans that far ahead? PEOPLE WITH LISTS. That's who.
You just sent me a text message- an international message to my Italian cell, which you hate doing because it costs you so much more money and somehow you live off five quid a week- to tell me you had just found my final-year thesis in the university library. It is kept there because it is so good, an example to other students. I don't care how much you roll your eyes when I say that. It's an example to other students of how good something can be when your best friend helps you be all that you can be, I think.
And yes. You may throw up now.
WHY ARE YOU READING MY DISSERTATION? I wrote back to you. PUT. THE. RED. PEN. DOWN. IT'S OVER. And you replied, I THOUGHT I'D GO AND SEE THE ONLY PART OF YOUR SOUL CURRENTLY STILL IN THE COUNTRY. YOUR DISSERTATION IS LIKE A HORCRUX. IF THIS WERE HARRY POTTER I'D BE STABBING IT WITH A BIG SWORD RIGHT ABOUT NOW. That made me think you didn't understand Harry Potter and the horcrux situation very well, but it was nice to hear anyway.
Oh. Wait. Unless you understand Harry Potter really well indeed, and actually you want me dead. Wow. That changes things.
I emailed you to say that as I read your notes on my manuscript I made this noise I have come to adapt. I think it might be an Italian noise despite the fact that my Italian friend tries to tell me otherwise. It goes sort of like, 'Uh! UH!' when I agree with something. You replied to me by saying, 'I KNOW THE NOISE. I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU.'
And then I had lie down in a darkened room with an even bigger case of the sads, before creating a board on Pinterest called 'Potential Writers Studio' because that is all I can focus on: in 2014 we will live in the city and share a writing space and drink all the Sainsbury's flavoured water we like.
Side-note: when I told Mama that she cried. It was awkward.
Every day we will talk and talk and talk about each other's work, and analyse it and debate it and make notes on it like, 'Don't be shit!' and 'You can do better' and 'LAURA! DELETE THIS. QUITE FRANKLY IT IS OFFENSIVE.' I work that out to be in about 700 days. But as you know, maths has never been my strongest point. Neither has writing a manuscript with enough punctuation. I see that now. I won't be shit any more.
Please be with me.