When we were a few years younger and had much more time, we would grab a meal or two every week to catch up on the relevant gossip and new revelations in each other’s lives.
However, time is a precious commodity. Like anything else either one of us has had to sacrifice, our friendship faded for no reason except that we just stopped taking the time to maintain it.
Different priorities came first. Different people came to fill the empty spaces in my life that I could not have you occupy.
We left our friendship suspended in uncertainty and nourished by the gruel of occasional hellos, remarks about one another here and there from mutual friends, and unexpected encounters at parties that lasted a few meager minutes before we both drifted back to whatever demanded more of our attention at the time.
I missed you.
I missed hearing about your life.
I missed sharing sordid details of my own life with you.
I missed the way you made me laugh about situations that should have embarrassed me but became less mortifying when you pointed out just how ridiculous they were.
I missed your bear hugs — how you wrapped your arms so tightly around my back that I thought you would crush my ribs (I never minded because I felt so secure and because you always smelled like slightly damp bramble, which reminded me of the forested stretch of Mississippi that streamed past my house).
I even missed your comments, dripping with sarcasm that you didn’t bother to disguise, about my taste in music.
Recently, we ended up sitting next to one another at a party, by happenstance. Happenstance weaves its magic in mysterious ways, drawing people together when they least expect it — a process that is sometimes maddening but mostly intoxicating. After a couple of gin and tonics — the drink that none of our other friends liked and mocked us for enjoying — the barriers, awkward and contrived, we had each erected around ourselves began to dissolve.
“Why did we stop being friends?” you asked abruptly, to fill a lull in our conversation.
I shrugged and took a long draught of my drink so that I wouldn’t have to scramble for an answer that didn’t really exist.
We had both brought dates to the party, and mine had disappeared from where he had sat only moments ago — to my left, focused wholly on the pulsing glow of his cell phone. I vaguely looked around for him, from my vantage point on the couch, but abandoned my search as quickly and as haphazardly as I’d begun it.
“We used to be such good friends.” You persisted, your questions needling holes in my skin.
“I mean, nothing really happened, right? We both just got really busy.” I chuckled weakly — an assurance to both of us that our friendship did not fall apart for conscientious reasons.
A couple weeks ago, I joked with a close friend that I would admit to you that I had feelings for you right before we graduated, feelings that developed when we were much wider-eyed and less hardened by the pressures that grow with age.
Then, right before we graduated. Finally. But only then.
She responded lightheartedly that that was the most depressing thing she’d ever heard, but what mattered to me was that I would not have to suffer the fallout of anything I could and would say to you.
After all, I would have nothing to lose then.
As soon as we walked across the podium — diploma in hand and four weary-wonderful years behind us — we would probably never see one another again, our lives arcing in different trajectories.
We would once again lose touch with one another but likely for a longer period of time, making any gulf that would grow between us much more difficult to bridge. This was a thought that scared me in its permanence but also excited me because it would provide the opportunity for candid confession.
Because time and circumstance would inevitably pull us apart then as they did before, I could tell you why I missed you and more importantly, why I would miss you.