“Well, I’ve been waiting, I was sure
We’d meet between the trains we’re waiting for”
— Leonard Cohen, The Stranger Song
I have always loved handwritten letters. I loved writing them with my fountain pens with blots of inks seeping through to the other side of the paper, tucked into neat colored envelopes that smelled of cologne. It was after the heartbreak that I realized that I had lost my only pen-friend. I had no one to slip dried flowers inside the folds of the paper for. I had no one to document what I felt about, in long sentences, the tiny moments that mattered the most. No more visits to the post office. No more tracking the shipments and praying to the postal gods.
Letters are not for everyone. I had sent letters to my friends on their birthdays and they have, without fail, never written back.
It was sometime in August, 2018, that I joined Slowly. I remember it was a pretty small community of users and the app looked very different. The team gave a special early bird stamp to me. And it was really heartwarming to find more users joining this community. I was very happy for the developers, me being a developer myself. It was a happy experience to be a part of this journey to see Slowly slowly growing to what it is now.
And it is the other way round as well. Slowly has seen me grow slowly into what I am today.
I was in a pretty sad state when I joined. I had been heartbroken and without good friends for over a year. I had friends but they were not close enough to share what I really felt, without being judged. I had always been very insecure about my creative flair or my tattered heart.
It was only on Slowly that I started opening up, slowly.
I met people having similar experiences who have gone through similar bouts of extreme loneliness and pain. I, for the first time, did not feel like a person who is not enough for the world around him. I did not feel like a sore loser any more. I made friends and realized the world is a pretty simple place. My struggles were not unique. My experiences did not feel like I was the unlucky one.
One of the first friends I met, got married and moved to a different part of the country. I have a friend who came to my city during a vacation and we met in person. We talked for hours as if we had known each other for years. I have people who have kept in touch even after leaving Slowly. With some of Slowly friends, I have shared keys to the deepest and darkest corners of my heart and they have plastered their love and empathy all over the tattered places and I have got my heart fixed, finally. :»)
The sharing has made it possible for me to come to terms with all that has gone wrong and that empathy and friendship can unite people more than what hatred can. We are not used to happy things. We poor little things, keep ourselves busy fighting over things that do not matter in the grand scheme of things. We have too little time to share our miseries. And too little number of friends to share them with.
I will end with a quote from one of my favorite movies on pen friends, “Mary and Max” —
Max Jerry Horowitz: “The reason I forgive you is because you are not perfect. You are imperfect. And so am I. All humans are imperfect. Even the man outside my apartment who litters. When I was young, I wanted to be anybody but myself. Dr. Bernard Hasselhoff said if I was on a desert island, then I would have to get used to my own company. Just me… and the coconuts. He said I would have to accept myself: my warts and all. And that we don’t get to choose our warts. They are a part of us and we have to live with them. We can however, choose our friends. And I am glad I have chosen you. Dr. Bernard Hasselhoff also said that everyone’s lives are like a very long sidewalk. Some are well paved. Others, like mine, have cracks, banana skins and cigarette butts. Your sidewalk is like mine, but probably not as many cracks. Hopefully, one day our sidewalks will meet and we can share a can of condensed milk. You are my best friend. You are my only friend.”