Now that I’ve written a letter to my old best friend, it’s time to write about my current one.
The one who has tagged along throughout life, despite my ricocheting from state to state and long periods of no communication. The one I consider gold simply because she loves me despite my absence.
I can own it. I’m a pretty shitty friend to have. I’m too wrapped up in my own head, my own obsession with my mental illness, and my own struggles and accomplishments.
Not only does it feel impossible to be truly helpful to another human but I also don’t want to burden them with my personal issues. I’m kind of a selfish person and I don’t know how to make it go away.
So my solution? Don’t talk. Barely ever. Not only do phone calls with long-distant friends (and family) take precious time with demanding kids, but I figure that not talking saves my friends from my self-obsessed life agony.
They’re better off without that weight. I’m also super-anxious about filling people in on my life.
So today’s story is about the one who has clung on to our friendship and made it so that everytime we meet over the years (last time, there was a 6-year gap), it’s like no time has passed. The gift of the perfect life-long best friend for me, who understands and respects my way of life. And hers is pretty amazing itself.
Today’s story goes back to the beginning.
When my family moved towns in 8th grade, I was thrown into a small class where I was the outsider, the new girl who lived in the low-income apartments. These new girls were all blonde farmer barbie dolls. There were some tomboys, but they were all like one giant clique that made it known that I was not welcome.
One day, in English class, I was sitting next to a girl who didn’t quite fit that clique. She was a brunette with dark skin who sat at a table with the other girls (who I was sure my new boyfriend considered the “losers”). She made a comment that immediately caused me to start giggling uncontrollably. After a side eye from the teacher, I quickly looked down, embarrassed. But relieved. She was the first one in my grade who smiled and talked to me as an equal. It felt like finally, someone actually noticed me. And actually liked me.
And her giggle was so contagious.
But we never really talk again after they day, either.
Until Halloween. I’d made plans to go trick or treating with some neighbor kids. I was surprisingly delighted to see that this girl who had made me laugh once in class was among the crowd. Somehow, at some point, she and I branched off from the rest of the group.
Talking to her came easy. It was as if we had both been waiting for the right person to spill our entire lives to. It seemed like hours that we just walked along, talking, laughing, and connecting. That was it. I had just made my lifelong best friend.
After that, we immediately hung out every single day. We struggled through algebra homework together, laid out on the sidewalk in bikinis to soak up the sun (and let’s be honest, to attract boys), and began discovering what it was like to flirt and have real boyfriends.
At the small town county fair that summer, she and I decided to take a turn up on stage at the talent show. In front of the whole county, she and I were going to sing the star spangled banner.
Were we nervous? YES. But we had each other. That was all that mattered. When our turn came, she and I awkwardly walked up to the microphone. It felt like my heart would jump out of my chest.
I looked at her, and she cracked up laughing. Nervous giggles, but the same contagious kind of laughing that got me in English class. I laughed too. But then, the laughing didn’t stop.
I looked out at the huge crowd, waiting without patience. I looked back at her, ready to start, tears in the corners of my eyes, “Ooh, say — — “ and MORE GIGGLING. Oh my gosh, I had never been so embarrassed. After what seemed like 10 minutes, the giggling was finally under control. We sang our hearts out to the national anthem, together.
My mom was not around a lot. She was a single mom commuting to work her butt off just to keep a roof over our heads. I started taking advantage of this by skipping school and sneaking out late at night to meet boys. My mom responded with anger and hurtful drunken rages.
The one thing that seemed concrete in my life was my best friend, the one who could make me laugh so hard.
After 8th grade, I couldn’t wait to go off to the private boarding school where my older sister had gone and was now teaching. I don’t really remember the goodbye. I probably have blocked it out. I think we tried to keep our friendship going long-distance, but I was immersed in my new school and trying to make friends there.
Over the years, it felt like our gem of a friendship faded into the dust. But we slowly found ways to start commuting across states to see each other again. And every time we meet, a missing piece is replaced in my life and I laugh my ass off.
There is something about being with your companion, your very best friend, that is so comforting. Talking over the phone just doesn’t do it. There is an energy that surrounds us when we hang out with each other (though once every few years). It’s like a cloud of fun and happiness and content. There’s nothing that compares.
This is my tribute to you, my best friend, but I have so much more to tell you. I can’t wait to see you again and have more memories to write about.
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