I used to spend every Friday night at her house, laughter dripping off our tongues. My stomach warm from ginger ale with Australian fizzies; her stomach warm with Coca-Cola straight from the bottle. We went to different schools, which left the rest of the week feeling like drying cement. I spent every second in between counting down to the soft red carpet in her living room and the white stools in her kitchen. Her apartment was the only place sixth grade hierarchy unbuckled its belt and sat back to relax. She was the only person who made me feel accepted.
The two of us did have our occasional ups and downs. The love of my middle school life asked me to set him up with her -- she read my diary and told people about it. I got a boyfriend and waited an hour too long to tell her. But we considered these issues to be minuscule, small bumps in the road to lifelong friendship.
On New Year's, we would drink bubbly apple cider and toast to never spending one without each other. We would have hourlong phone calls where we would go through each detail of our day. When she had her first kiss, I was the first to know. We would lie in her bed and discuss how the monumental moments in the future would feel. I would definitely have to keep her calm before she walked down the aisle and there was no doubt she would be at the receiving end of the call the first time my daughter got drunk and was too scared to tell me. But as hard as two seventh grade girls try, it’s impossible to see into the future.
Our bodies grew, days fell off the calendar in her bedroom, birthday candles were blown out, and our friendship dated itself. It may be the fault of the girl with sparkling blond hair in her freshman homeroom. Or the way depression found me eating lunch alone, making the days treacherous, leaving my eyes to be in a constant a state of water. But blame is for the bitter. So I am left with this: The two of us standing adjacent to the escalator in Duane Reade, a few steps in front of the magazine rack. The air around us was suffocating and awkward. Both of our mouths quivered.
“Look, Anna,” she said, pausing to sigh. “I guess the two of us are living in different worlds … and I just don’t really want to be a part of yours right now.”
I couldn’t make the transformation from ginger ale to beer, so I was left behind in some sort of friendship purgatory. I don’t think she realized that she was my world. Or maybe she realized it and the pressure was too much. But her motives don’t matter. What matters is the aftermath. Without her, my hours rapidly darkened and my minutes slowed down. Every step felt as if I was falling, and every morning the bed clung to me as the only place that was safe.
She became a villain in my mind. I tucked all the pain I had accumulated along the years into her. I blamed her for every scar on my body, even the ones she attempted to heal when they were merely a wound. Every bad day somehow seemed to link itself back to her, and every smile was some sort of revenge -- some way to prove that my world was one worthy of being in.
Time acted as it does, passing by, letting the days stand as roadblocks between us. Soon Friday nights apart blended into months without talking. I had never realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in being her best friend. My reflection constantly seemed to have a gap in it.
Her absence was all-encompassing. Her departure became the first thought I had every morning and the last thing mumbled about before bed. So I did what any “wronged girl” would do after a breakup: I made her an "acquaintance" on Facebook and unfollowed her on Instagram. I assumed that if I drained every aspect of her out of my life, I would be able to move on. I would feel cleaner, happier. In a lot of ways, it worked.
I found my own world lounging in level one improv classes, poetry workshops, and summer programs, but the thought of her still burned like acid reflux. But for the most part, I did move on. I found new inside jokes, scrubbing hickeys with toothbrushes, drinking ginger ale with sushi and unintentionally leaking vital news to Yik Yak.
On New Year's I drank bubbly apple cider with new friends and toasted to boy problems, avocado cups, and happiness -- and that’s when I realized that the tattoo of her on my Friday nights had faded. She no longer monopolized my thought process.
But then one morning I received a text from her asking me to brunch. It was as if the 12-year-old inside of me took over. I texted back "yes" without hesitating. I spent the week before preparing. I thought of this as my final chance to make her feel the pain she made me feel. I wanted to tell her about my world -- to make her feel stupid for deciding to leave it.
I arrived to the restaurant with a seamless Aaron Sorkin–level takedown prepared in my mind. But when I finally saw her sitting there, looked into the same eyes that stared into mine all those Friday nights ago, I didn’t feel hatred. Instead, I felt the nauseated stomach turn of forgiveness. Suddenly, she was not the evil monster I had made her up to be. She was just a high school sophomore, and people are people.
The other day, a boy from our middle school years asked me if I was still friends with her. I had to pause to think it through. It has now been three months since we met up. Three months since we last spoke. I still have my nights where I wake up thinking about her. My moments when I want to call her up and tell her how much I miss her. From the ages of 10 to 14, I loved her more then anyone else in this world. That has to count for something.
Are we still friends?
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