It was 2006. We were 12 years old. I had just discovered hair dye, and puberty had just discovered you. Your vocal chords were still adjusting, but your punchlines never faltered. The ever-changing tone of your voice just made every joke you cracked that much funnier when I sat behind you in that 7th grade science class. I remember getting yelled at for forgetting to breathe and begging you to stop talking to me because I didn’t like the way that the teacher said my name. I didn’t like the way that the other kids in the room stared as I laughed until my face became a shade of crimson that even my mother’s rose bushes would have envied.
It was December of 2009. We were 15 years old. We all sat on that staircase at the mall as old people sang Christmas Carols beneath us. And I swear, those hundreds of strings of lights burned themselves in to my memory as your best friend kissed me for the very first time. You and that Christmas tree stood witness as I refused to close my eyes during the moment that I knew I could never take back: my first kiss. You were there. You saw all of it.
It was the winter of 2010. We were 16 years old. The sky was falling in white. We walked to the park across the street from my house and went swinging in the snow. I will never forget the way the big snowflakes looked as if they were suspended in mid-air, as we moved against gravity. In that moment, it was like all of time stood still. In that instance, we outsmarted reality and stole a sacred moment of our childhood, our innocence frozen like vulnerable tongues against the metal illusion of our own adolescence.
It was the autumn of 2012. We were 18 years old. I had already graduated, but you had been held back. You were still fighting for your diploma. I snuck in through the side door of the building and we walked around the halls of that high school like old partners in crime on the day of Homecoming. Cheerleaders danced in the hallways as we maneuvered our way past the security guards and into the classrooms of all of my favorite former teachers. We started following the Homecoming floats as they prepared to leave for the parade, but both got distracted by the brilliant compilation of orange leaves that masked the yard in front of a stranger’s house. I admit, I felt myself begin to fall for you as you fell to the ground, moving your arms and legs in an embarrassing manner, and made leaf angels. There was something holy about your silhouette left behind in the grass. In it, I couldn’t help but think of all the beautiful things that could grow there.
It was 2013. We were 19 years old. We had made a habit of meeting at the park by your house at 2 a.m. and spinning ourselves dizzy on the carousel in the dark under the winter constellations as we talked about the Universe and who we wanted to be. Our secrets came out in clouds of mist, our warm breath against the cool night air. I remember telling you how proud I was of the man you were growing into. I remember thinking that there was no place else I would rather be than with you right there.
It was the summer of 2018. We were 24 years old. You hugged me on my mother’s porch as we stood next to my boyfriend. Our childhood was long gone, but something about you still felt like home, even after all those years. I was excited to rekindle the old flame of our friendship when you asked my boyfriend to move in with you. The months passed, and with them, the seasons. Eventually, I broke up with my boyfriend, and consequently, you broke off our friendship. Suddenly, everything fell into perspective. Your hugs that I had mistaken as a welcome mat and what I had mistaken as a friendship was simply you being polite.
It is now 2019. Time continues to pass, and the seasons continue to fade. I guess I just never thought our friendship would. As I write this, I’m currently wearing the shirt you bought me for Christmas. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. It seems so silly now, considering the ways you threw me away.
Your laugh was the soundtrack of my childhood. You stood witness to so many important moments. All of the memories, the conversations, the leaf angels, and swinging in the snow; it breaks my fucking heart to say that now, absolutely nothing about you feels like home.
While your presence in my life was cherished, my presence in yours was merely tolerated.
I guess it’s time to leave childish things behind.