Falling in love is a trope sequestered to the multiplex screen. Tales of romance, loss and redemption live stretched across 600 square inches of vinyl — a la “500 Days of Summer.” But movies aren’t often made about great friendships.
This is a story of boy meets girl, except I am Tom Hansen and Greg is Summer Finn, and you should know up front that this is truly not a love story. In this story, Summer and Tom would be best friends.
The story of our friendship is cinematic — sculpted as a film would be, with characters whose relationship was built from their love of films.
We watched “La La Land” together before we knew anything in particular about each other. The escalator scrolled upward around the golden spheres strung from the Westfield ceiling. In the theater, we reclined in plastic leather seats, the screen playing sweeping jewel-toned musical numbers around the beginning of us knowing each other. We drove back to Berkeley and ate spaghetti. The saturated hues of the afternoon movie washed over the evening — if a romance styles itself after a pastel Wes Anderson, the beginning of a friendship usually feels like it’s in Technicolor.
In January, we watched “The Usual Suspects” — a slow Saturday late at night, sinking criss-cross into twin-sized memory foam, the small screen flashing the long-winded 1995 plot twist at us from across the room. He reminded me of the names of all the characters who I claimed looked the same while I squinted at their faces, trying to make out how they were different.
Greg and I slowly slipped away from the screen. We met at coffee shops and ate dinner together; we spent consecutive days on conversations that melted from texts to spoken words and back again — talking about what we were doing and thinking, what we believed, what we wanted, what we found funny. And in the end, we always came back around to the movies.
Together, we saw “Lion,” “Hell or High Water,” “Song to Song,” “Moon,” “Blade Runner,” and “Wonder Woman.” The list of movies we planned stretches even further.
Where becoming friends happens deliberately — the hours accumulating bit by bit until you look up and you’re inseparable — losing a friend feels like falling: sudden, overexposed and a little surreal.
Greg went away for part of the summer, and we didn’t talk as often. Alone in July, I fretted over the sparse texts that he explained as cell service complications. When he came back, he downloaded “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” onto my laptop and told me to go home and watch it.
I ate a quart of sickly sweet vegan ice cream and cried until George Clooney made me laugh.
When classes started up, Greg was here, but we didn’t see each other very often. We met to have a coffee at some point, and I heard him promise we were friends. He was busy, I was assured.
“I’m busy too,” another friend told me. “Friends find the time for the people they want to be friends with.”
Then Greg and I fought. We argued about the kinds of things you see in the movies, but there isn’t a director in Hollywood who would put our fight in a film — it was long, slow-paced and circular; the lighting was bad.
He told me he’d thought he could fix me, but he was exhausted. I said I didn’t know what he thought he needed to fix. He said he had been miserable trying to make me happy, so then he had given up. I asked him why he hadn’t told me there were things about me that bothered him. It wasn’t necessarily the right choice, he said, just the choice he had made.
“I don’t need your pity,” I retorted. “You don’t have it,” he responded.
I stopped trying to stop the falling. I stopped speaking to Greg — I didn’t know how to say I was sad that I didn’t miss him anymore. I moped, indulging myself with perceptions drawn up in dreary Tim Burton color schemes.
The ends of friendships are sad — not rose-tinted tragedies, but sad in a splotchy, bulky sort of way. Sometimes they don’t end concretely, with the sadness timed to run out at the beginning of something new, such as when Tom met Autumn — sometimes, they taper off. Maybe that’s why no one makes them into movies.
But even without a succinct filmic ending, resolutions are possible. I said “Hi” when I rushed through a door he was holding open somewhere on the south side of campus. We met up at a coffee shop to talk about the classes I had to take in the spring and the applications he had to finish before then. We watched movies together with our mutual friends — “Donnie Darko” and “Top Gun.”
The latest movie we watched together was “Dr. Strangelove” and before it started, Greg didn’t talk to me. But I didn’t need him to.
Olivia Jerram writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on experiencing art through other people. Contact her at [email protected].