Every friendship has its own life. A bond is born the moment you make eye contact with a stranger when Madonna’s Like A Prayer starts playing and you realize you’re the only two dancing. Or you find yourself alone in the campus cafe and nervously decide to sit next to the unthreatening girl eating a bran muffin. These moments, though seemingly insignificant, become a profoundly important part of you. You won’t always remember the obscenely cold walks to class, the lunch dates tucked away in the back corners of the lawn, or the temporary crushes you confessed to in the early mornings at the town bar. But the experiences you shared over cranberry vodkas and greasy cheese slices are timeless.
At one point in time, you willingly gave a valuable piece of your selective heart to the girl you hadn’t expected to complete you so easily. The one who drunkenly held you up at 2am as you slurred I love yous, the purest emotion you had ever felt in your 21 years. The one who lent you heels and smoothed your hair before a first date. The one who had the Oreos ready when you returned either to celebrate or commiserate. The one who pulled all nighters, even if she didn’t have an exam the next morning, just to share her notes with you. As you split another glass of rosé from the box, you declared how you wouldn’t be able to survive without each other. Every ounce of you believing it to be true.
It was never a conscious decision to let this friendship slip away from you. Looking back on your choices, you contemplate how you could have made the effort to stay in each other’s lives. But at 23, armed with a degree and your naive ambition, you decided to move far away and find a boy who stole all your attention. You no longer saw yourselves as partners in crime, but rather, you, on your own, forging ahead. The increasingly critical moments in between your time as friends and your current life were too great to overcome. Mere strangers now. You even wondered if you could recognize her on the street, knowing years ago she was all you were looking for. The days turned into weeks, months, years. Now you were worlds away from each other. The only remaining fragments of your companionship were found in faded photographs left untouched in desk drawers.
Perhaps that’s the part that still hurts the most. There was no shouting or lying or talking behind each other’s backs. You didn’t sleep with her boyfriend and she didn’t spread rumors about your messy past. You didn’t scream across your tiny college dorm that you would never speak to her again as you slammed the door and hastily packed up your few belongings. There was no picking sides, no impulsively written notes, no heated voicemails recording the very end of your friendship. Your pictures were still intact, your phone numbers still locked in each other’s phone, your memories still golden. It simply faded away, like the water drifting from the shore. You watched it slip out towards the horizon, knowing there was no way to stop it from leaving you.
This is not to say you didn’t try. The monthly phone calls to check in, the birthday cards that almost made it on time. You knew of each other’s job offers and engagements, those big events that signified a notable life change. But that might have been your downfall. Lasting friendships breed on the little moments, the every day nonsenses you endured as a pair. Without that, you were grasping for something that didn’t exist. You couldn’t fill in those blank spaces anymore, you couldn’t possibly rewrite the pages that didn’t exist. Your once intimate conversations evolved into friendly exchanges, nothing more than a hope all is well. Time was a cruel enemy and the miles between you were not in your favor.
Just as this friendship appeared when you least expected it, it, too, left without warning. While it still stings to think about your loss, you reaffirm that moving on was inevitable. Although your years together appear trivial on the large scale of time that has since past, your experiences together were irreplaceable. Because of that particular friendship, you knew the standards for all those who followed. You treasured the moments that once made up your entire lives before you left on two very different paths, likely to never intersect again. Though you’ve seemed to have deviated from the original plan, you’ve realized that perhaps you’ve just finished learning from each other. Moving onward, separately, was a necessary point of growth, an essential part of making room for what was to come.
While there is the very rare friendship that withstands the passage of time, others are intense yet short-lived. Regardless of their length, friendships are remembered for their depth, the deep feelings that linger even after the person has since left. Those memories, the times you were unknowingly growing into yourself, are a fundamental piece of who you now are…even if the goodbyes felt counterintuitive. You reach a point where you can look back with fondness and appreciation for being so lucky to have had her in your life, if only temporarily. The time apart doesn’t discount what once was, and for that, you are forever grateful that you spent your otherwise confused and disorderly adolescent years with the company of a true partner-in-crime.