We had an awkward first meeting. We met, as most do, in a large crowd of pre-formed groups with steady conversation already in waves around us. We exchanged formalities and offered up the names that define us in this life and world. You left to find more familiar faces and I left to go home.
We became friends in the most unusual way. We have a sarcastic sense of humor, you and I, which can often be misconstrued as sulky or borderline insulting by others. Instead, we backed each other up. We brought out the worst in each other, but more than that, we brought out the best. You would always be the first to criticize me but also the first to compliment. I would repay you in kind. We clipped together my pink, plastic kite with three cartoon penguins that I brought back slightly battered from Taiwan. We argued as we flew it and then fell still when it finally rose above the air current. It was a memory that didn’t require photographic evidence to recall.
When we talked more, we spoke of things your friends don’t usually bother you with. Friends can talk about things that make them happy. We talked about things that gave us joy. We talked about things that made us grieve. We talked about different kinds of grief. We talked about the parts of ourselves that languish and then die. We cried together over the line, our voices traveling in bursts over WiFi. We grew up and we regressed. We promised we would always talk.
We relocated to different cities. We made plans to visit each other. We pushed those plans back to accommodate our diverging lifestyles. I said, “next month, soon, later.” You said, “busy, expensive, maybe.” We left out details of our new worlds that we thought we might find disinteresting. I presented the best version of myself. Instead, you just saw less of my whole self. You missed out on the changes that all my mistakes afforded me. We let each other go and neither of us seemed to care enough to fight it. Now the best we can do is a let’s have coffee text that we both know deep down that we’ll never honor.
I can’t remember the last time I thought about you. I can’t remember the last time I saw something funny or something horrible or anything I wanted to share with you. You left as you came, slowly and so gradually that I didn’t notice. Or maybe it was me — maybe I was the one who did the leaving. It doesn’t matter either way because the fact remains that what once was there is gone. You’ve washed yourself out of my daily routine like faded blue jeans and your wonderful memories – our memories – are like winter rain: sweet to smell and cold to touch.