In the short story “The Body,” by Stephen King (which later became the movie “Stand By Me”) the narrator of the story says, “I never had friends again like I did when I was twelve.”
My best childhood friend lost her dad a couple of days ago. Her parents live very close to me, but I didn’t even know he was sick. I found out he died when I read it in the paper. This is a man I saw nearly as much as my own father from the sixth grade up until about three years after I graduated high school. His daughter, my then-friend, was literally my very, very best friend.
Do you remember friends like that? My husband is really my best friend, but I don’t know if I ever laughed even with him the way I laughed with her. I’m talking about the kind of side-aching, tear-squirting, breath-taking laughter that I think only kids and drunk people can produce. We were together all the time, and when we weren’t together, we were talking on the phone. Now, I’ve struggled for three days to remember what her voice sounds like, and I can’t. I can’t remember. Somehow, she slipped away from me.
Oh, I know it’s common enough. Life takes over–real life, the kind that sucks–and you hardly have time for your own family, let alone friends. But that’s just it–I DO have friends now, really great friends that I love with all of my heart. We are bound by common interests, similar family situations, mostly our kids. I don’t get to do much with them, but I talk to them regularly. So why couldn’t I have that with my then-friend? I remember imagining our lives as we grew older, how we’d marry brothers maybe, and be pregnant at the same time (if we decided to have kids) and live in the same neighborhood. We knew all of each other’s secrets, and fears, and dreams. Somehow, it still wasn’t enough.
Now her dad is gone, and I guess she has some other best friend to talk to, and tell her how sorry they are, and all of that crap someone does for you when someone you love dies. He didn’t have any kind of memorial service, so I don’t know what to do. It’s been years since I saw her or spoke to her. I thought about sending a card, but all I can think of when I think of a card is Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” (I wrote a post about the movie thing, remember?) sitting across the table from his “best friend.” The friend said he was sorry he didn’t make it to Robin’s wife’s funeral, and Robin says, “Yeah, I got your card.” Heavy sarcasm. Now, in case you don’t speak sarcasm (a language in which I am fluent) what his tone and expression suggested was “Shove your card up your ass.” That basically sums up my opinion of most cards to begin with, so back my original point, forget the card. Her old number is disconnected and I don’t know her cell.
So maybe that’s that. Maybe it’s time for me to just let it go. She’s not my friend anymore. It’s not because of anything that happened, unless you want to count life–that’s all that happened. Kids and jobs and husbands and errands and everything in between.
We aren’t those kids anymore. The life we thought was so hard when it was happening turned out to not be so bad after all. The things we were afraid of were just phantoms, and they, too, have faded away. We grew up, and grew apart. Her dad dying was like a splash of cold water on my face. We are way past being kids. Our parents are old enough to retire, and they are old enough to die. I know it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I’m not kid anymore–don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total idiot. I know how old I am. I guess I just forgot for a while how wide the gulf is between that kid I was and this person I am now. It’s hard to let her go–my friend and myself. I miss that easy laughter, and that bond that only children can know. I miss the carefree life that was, that is gone now forever. I guess the truth is, I miss my friend. I’m sorry I lost her. I didn’t mean to, but when you’re young, you don’t realize how easy it is to lose things. By the time you realize how precious a thing is, most of the time it’s already gone.
So, I won’t send a card. I can only say now how sorry I am for her loss, even if she never knows it. And I can say thanks for being my best, best, best friend through all of those years. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.