Once upon a time I had friends, best friends. But after we graduated high school God cast us far and wide. He flicked his wrist hard and we scattered like so many Pick Up Sticks. None of us touched after that, not geographically anyway. Hefty phone bills and first jobs out of college widened the distance between us, and eventually, marriages and babies. So then what? We had to find new gal pals. But it had gotten harder. Since we weren't spring chickens anymore. Since everyone we met was so daggone busy. Even so, we didn’t have a choice, did we?
“Do you wanna be best friends? Just you and me? Do ya, do ya? Huh, huh?”
I didn’t answer right away. Didn’t look at her either. Instead I fiddled with the snaps on my daughter’s onesie. Pretended to give my friend privacy while she nursed her baby. Her question surprised me. Made me feel claustrophobic. Like if I said yes, it would be me and her in a Jif jar with a lid on and a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover.
I turned away slightly and cupped my hand to push air in my mouth. And then she moved. Far away.
“Guess what?” my best-friend-first-through-twelfth-grade said when I answered the phone. “I have unlimited long distance calling now. We can talk like, every day.”
And we did for awhile. Till I blew it. We got in this tiff, of all things, about her religion and my faith. When she said that one thing just so, I was pretty sure it was over. I heard the word never come out of my mouth even though my personal philosophy is never say never.
She fell silent and Iwatched our friendship, like an egg, roll across a surface that wasn’t level, but tilted ever so slightly downhill.
Soon after, I met another woman, at my son's pre-school. She had the best cheekbones ever but something shadowed her. All the time. One day I figured out what it was—fear. Eventually I got used to it—her scaredy-cat aura. And actually, it seemed to lessen the more we hung out.
As our kids got taller, we grew closer. At one point though, in my mind, I pretended to be a traffic cop. I extended my arm, flexed at the wrist. Stop. Don’t come any closer. ‘Cause I don’t think we have enough in common.
See, she didn’t paint her nails, wear lipgloss, or love shoes. I could tell her anything but somehow that didn't seem like enough. We telephoned and emailed a whole lot, but I knew even if she didn’t, that I’d put SaranWrap around my heart.
She moved away, just for a year, but still . . .
A L O N E (L Y) N E S S
The just-you-and-me gal visited the other day. We sat side by side on the sofa.
You’re more like me than anyone I know, I said inside my head.
I grinned as my kids laughed with hers. Only thing is, you don’t wear mascara.
She hugged me as we stood beside her car. “It’s like I never left.”
I stepped back and nodded. Waved as they drove away. Ask me that question again. I’ll say yes this time.
When we found out my pa-in-law had super bad cancer, I phoned my best friend from childhood.
“Tell me all that stuff you do again,” I said. “The natural, organic, herbal, and homeopathic stuff.”
I nodded. “Really.”
And she did. Things got better after that. In fact, we're almost back to the place we were before. There’s still a creek that divides the lands of my belief and hers, but after six years, the bridge is coming along nicely.
I threw a welcome-home-unload-the-U-Haul party when my one friend moved back. Despite phone calls, emails, and texts (and not having enough in common), I missed her. A whole lot. As I walked up her driveway I wondered if she’d be able to tell the difference in me. How the SaranWrap around my heart had disappeared.