They’ll break it to you over the phone. To say so in person will be too hard.
You’ll be happy for them, because the world is wide and open and full of possibility and there is so much that you and they should explore. But you always thought you’d explore it together. It doesn’t mean they love you any less, of course. It doesn’t mean they’re abandoning you, nor that they’re moving on and leaving you behind. But for a moment, it may feel that way. In that moment, you will feel abandoned.
They will move, because sometimes best friends do. Because their lives, though intrinsically wound with yours, are still their own to mold and shape and change. Maybe they got a new job, or maybe they fell in love with someone who lives however many states and cities and miles away.
There’s no way around it: it is going to hurt like hell, and it will break your heart in ways you’ve never thought your heart could break. Your best friend is someone who is irreplaceable, and it would be strange to think that it wouldn’t hurt. You will both cope better if you understand this, if you embrace it, and if you cherish the time you still have together in the same city. If you understand this now, you’re less likely to end up a sobbing mess during your goodbyes. You’ll already have waded through all of the icky feelings beforehand so now you’ll be more equipped to handle those tears when they come.
And so you will spend as much time together doing everything you possibly can before they leave. You will visit your favorite bar, and flirt with your favorite bartender, and cheer when your favorite song plays. Your favorite bartender will play that song for you, because you will have told them that you’re losing your best friend, and you will hug your best friend tightly in the early morning haze of one too many beers and the strange, sad sort of happiness that only bittersweet last moments bring. You will crash on each other’s couches, and spend entire weekends just lounging around, watching entire Netflix marathons and ordering burritos the size of small dogs. You will take enough photos to last a lifetime of albums and Instagram accounts. You will remain as inseparable as humanly possible, not because it will hurt all the more when you finally do separate, but because you’ll know you’ve stockpiled enough memories in your last hurrah to last until the next time you see each other.
In short: you will do what you do best together.
You will cling to the technology that is so pervasive in your life anyway. Chances are good that 60% of your interaction is already digital as is. Between Gchat, Twitter, Facebook, and holding entire texting conversations in .gif, you know how to keep in touch. Your best friend is the only person you actually spend your phone minutes on anyway, so you won’t have to allocate any of them to them and them alone. And you will get used to the image of their face on a phone screen, or coming at you in fuzzy, pixelated movements from halfway around the world. They may only be in a new city, but still. It will feel like they’re further away than you could ever imagine. You will want to reach through the screen, to touch them, to hug them, to nudge them and say, “Hey, I’m here. Don’t forget about me, okay?” even though you won’t be able to.
But you won’t need to. They won’t forget you.
And so you will invest in stamps. Lots of stamps. There’s something about writing each other letters that will never be replaced, and you will make sure you buy a good pen when you write letters, and you will seek out funny cards and silly little gifts, and you will look into how much it would cost to mail yourself to them. You will research plane tickets, and set an alert on every website you can for sales. You will plan your next vacation around their hometown, and you will be inconsolable when something falls through. It might, you know. When they moved, they continued on with their life, started anew and picked up where they left off. And so did you.
You will hang out with other people to fill the void. Slowly, you will find the balance between texting them nonstop and interacting with the people who still live where you do. You will find new people to go to movies with, new people to meet for drinks and brunch and everything in between. And so will they. They will tell you about the new friends they’ve met, and you will fill them in on what’s going on with everyone else. They all ask about how you’re doing, you’ll say. We all miss you, you’ll say.
But your best friend is still your best friend. Even from half a world away. Distance can’t sever that connection. Best friends are the kind of people who can survive anything. And when best friends see each other again, after being separated by half a world and more miles than you think you can bear, you pick up right where you left off.
After all, that’s what best friends do.