1000plus*

Coffee #66: Bella Mae Gray (friends on Facebook since July 2013, 74 mutual friends)

So far 2015 has been “the year of good byes.” Eight of my closest friends have relocated overseas within the last two months (including Baly (coffee #22) and Joran (coffee #63)) and today I said good bye to yet another one of my best friends leaving Melbourne for Berlin indefinitely, the absolutely radiant Bella Mae Gray.

Although Bella and I only met in 2013 when I visited Melbourne for a week while I was living in Tokyo, I now count her as one of my closest and best friends. We’re operating on the same wavelength, tuned to the same frequency, share the same sense of humour and world view, see each other multiple times a week and have shared an extremely important and formative, albeit short two years of very close friendship. Bella started dating another of my best friends Hotdog, (yes, ‘Hotdog,’ he’s another story altogether) and became an integral part of our tight friendship group affectionately known as the 'Cool Dudes Fun Time Group’ (Baly chose the name). Without going too deeply into this secret society-esque friendship group, we’re all very damn close. I’m talking about a friendship so close where you spend so much time together in a 'friend bubble,’ that in-jokes evolve into a new dialect in the way you communicate with each other and “pillars” of the friendship start to form. We all communicate online on a 'secret Facebook group’ and a select few of us (including myself, Bella and Bourkey (coffee #5) even have matching tattoos depicting our 'secret greeting’ to each other. It’s some very deep friendship vibes.

So that sets the tone for Bella and my friendship. We’re very tight and a huge part of my life will be missing with her gone. Who will I watch ’Survivor’ with every Thursday? Who will be more willing and enthusiastic to hijack the stereo and attempt to perform the entire soundtrack to 'The Book of Mormon’ at parties? Who will agree to “explore under the house” with me at parties? I’ve got a cache of excellent Bella memories from filming our own underwater Madonna video clip in a pool, numerous camping trips on the Murray River, endless late nights and early mornings, shooting guns in the country, mountain-walks, beach house weekends, oyster and doughnut dates at the market, going to see Dylan (coffee #59) perform in Man Power plus many deep karaoke sessions. Shiiii… And now that’s not going to happen again for the foreseeable future. :-|

After high school, as a self-proclaimed 'rebellious teen,’ Bella packed up and moved to London where she lived for four years. After eventually moving back to Melbourne in 2012 she started working at a costume shop in Fitzroy, which was perfect because all of her friends are very much partial to costume-parties and dressing up. One of my earliest memories of bonding with Bella was at Meredith Music Festival in 2013. Bella, Hotdog and myself spent the night hanging out and went on the ’Meredith Eye’ aka the ferris wheel; so today Bella and I went to Luna Park in St. Kilda and shared a coffee on the ferris wheel. We initially tried to go on one of the upside-down rides, but the “carny” (is that an un-PC term?) - AKA the “carnival staff” - saw my camera and confiscated it. We sat on the ferris wheel, looked out at the view of Port Philip Bay and greater Melbourne and had one last, big conversation about whatever it is close friends talk about and Bella’s plans in her next phase of life. While she’s hoping to continue working in freelance costume design while living in Berlin, she’s also open to absolutely anything that comes her way. Good call.

One of my favourite 'Bella stories’ is her relocation to New York. While living in London, one night on a total whim, Bella and her partner did something that people often talk / dream about doing, but in actual fact - due to how extreme it is, never actually do, and both packed a bag of essentials, took a cab to the airport and bought a one-way ticket to New York on the spot. Having spent all of their money on last-minute flights, Bella and her partner found themselves in a new city with no money and nowhere to stay. They took turns taking shifts staying awake while the other person slept in a combination of Central Park and a variety of nearby McDonalds for almost one week. During Bella’s turn to stay awake during a sleep shift in a McDonalds, an extremely kind man with two kids sitting next to Bella asked if they were both okay and offered to let them stay with him and his family in New Jersey, which they graciously accepted. They became close with the family and stayed with them for a few weeks until Bella found work in a vintage clothing store shop on the Lower East Side, made a small amount of money and found a place to live. Woah. The best.

While Bella looks back on that time in a “cringey, very irresponsible” way, "not thinking about how things I did impacted on other people,” I can’t help but be extremely inspired by Bella’s confidence and willingness to embrace change, take risks and relocate her life in such extreme ways. In response, Bella told me that 'while trying new things is scary, throwing yourself at the mercy of the universe is something I think is important to do and something I find really exciting.’ She’s fkn tough as, but also possesses one of the most nurturing and caring personalities of anyone I know. She’s one of the most genuinely open and welcoming people I’ve ever met and fiercely loyal and encouraging to all of her friends. I’m yet to meet someone that doesn’t love Bella.

The same day Bella and I got our matching tattoos, I also got an additional tattoo simply (and also not so simply) saying “Different Things” on my thigh. As much as I’m going to miss her, I’m so excited about this new phase of her life and the life-changing experience she’s about to have and although “too many emotions, Hit,” the concept of embracing, respecting and accepting the concept of ever changing relationships, people entering / exiting your life at points and “Different Things” has never been more relevant. “Tomorrow is a latter day,” love ya so much Bella and see you somewhere in the world soon. Don’t forget about Melbourne, we miss you already. 😘

Bella and I both sneakily drank a cute little Brazilian and Honduras ’First Press’ cold drip coffee each while we were at the top of the ferris wheel without getting caught by the 'carny.’

“My parents split up when I was in fourth grade, so before that things were very perfect. Afterwards was a little tougher, but still nice. Then I had an older brother and was sort of a tomboy. I was super curious, did everything, wanted to be a Debate, Soccer, Art Classes, Drama. I drove my mom crazy! But she saw at an early age that I was artistic and encouraged it. And she also gave me the freedom to pursue different things.”