In the face smiling at me, a face I haven’t set eyes on in over 30 years, I can still see the sweet expression of the six-year old who used to hold my hand on the way back from school. My best friend through elementary and middle school is right there, at the center of her Facebook page, a life unspooled away from me: her son, her companion, her trips – mostly the happy occasions we like to share with the world.
A mutual friend who was able to track me down put us back in touch. Her e-mail, a reply to mine, opens with “You can’t imagine the happiness at having found you again. Every time I pass by your old house, I look at your windows and remember our childhood”. She continues by cracking her life open for me to see, much more than I was able to in my first stilted and humorous foray, as if we were still talking about the boys we liked and who kissed whom. Her many losses, the hard punches, the getting back up, none of it ever shared with me: “So often I tried to find you but I was never able to”.
I don’t even know her woman’s voice. It’s her teenage trill that I remember.
How could we have been so careless to lose each other? Different high schools, different paths; her early pregnancy, my moving away, they cannot be blamed. My truth is, I thought we were different people, while we just made different choices. P was my very first best friend and I should have taken better care of our bond.
How do friendships end? Is it true they change as we age, that like relationships, they evolve and sometimes die of natural causes? The question has been much on my mind of late. As a woman who values friendship , especially female friendship, above most other things in life, I left a pretty hefty trail of discarded girlfriends in my five decades on this earth. None of them were abandoned in haste or anger (well, almost none. I am still sorry E, that I slept with your boyfriend. That I was young and stupid and he most handsome, are not good excuses and you have earned the right to hate me forevermore. You might draw some pleasure in knowing I value that act as one of the most despicable in my otherwise fairly honest life).
Circumstances change, we tell ourselves, our lives are busy and there is no room for every single person who walked alongside us. But I can’t help thinking that the people we most trusted, with whom we shared our inner lives, at different points in the journey, should always be part of the inner circle in some fashion. Like the most meaningful loves, who will always walk around with a piece of our heart, there are those girlfriends who will always hold our secrets. And unlike our loves, who are most often best left in the past, there is no reason our old girlfriends should be consigned to the same fate.
“ I will always have the scar on my wrist from when I punched my hand into your bathroom window, to remember us by” P writes. How could I have forgotten?
Image found here