I don’t remember meeting her, but there she is, in my old class pictures starting in Kindergarten. It’s like she was just always there. I don’t remember much about our friendship until the third grade. There was a Grade 3 class and a Grade 4 class, and mid-way through September, the school decided that some of the Grade 3 students would be moved to the Grade 4 class to make a 3/4 split. I was home sick the Friday that they announced which students would be moving, but I remember R coming home and telling me that I would be in his class starting on Monday. She was in that split class too, and that’s really where I remember it beginning.
We would go on through grade school, with a larger group of friends, but there was something special between us, even when we had other friends who we spent drifted more towards at any given time. We often walked home together, splitting up at the end of the path that ran through the park – she went north to the home with the porch that her father and uncle had built, and I went south to the home that I grew up in – the one my family lived in for almost 30 years.
In the 7th grade there was a shift. All of a sudden, we weren’t in the same class anymore. She had a different homeroom – and a different math, english and science class. We went on an week-long camping trip that fall, and I ended up bunking with someone in my own homeroom. She said she was fine with it, but on that trip, she broke down and accused me of leaving her – leaving her on the trip with another roommate and leaving her at school by going to another homeroom (which was not of my own doing, but she was clearly having a moment). We got through that, and from then on, it was her and me. Me and her. If I was without her, people would ask, “where is she?” and vice-versa. It wasn’t friendship, it was sisterhood. There were other friends who would come and go from our group, but it was always the two of us first. We didn’t fight. We had each others backs. We shared lunches and homework and hair clips. We walked to school and home together every day. I decorated her family Christmas tree with her. She baked me shortbread cookies drowned in icing sugar at Easter. It was us and them.
In the 11th grade, we had a blowout and didn’t talk for several weeks, maybe even a month. I don’t remember exactly what happened – I just remember that she started purposely excluding me from things, and when I finally called her on it in the hallway of our high school, in front of my locker, she blew up at me. I couldn’t tell you what she said or what I said, but that rift was the talk of the school for a while. In the end, she apologized, we made up, and went right back to where we were before. Her and me. Me and her. We sang in the choir together. I visited her family restaurant. She came to all my basketball/volleyball/soccer games. Us for each other first, and then, everyone else.
In our last year of high school, I started dating someone who was in University at a school about an hour away. He came back to Toronto on alternate weekends, and I’d spend that time with him. Otherwise, it was business as usual. Or so I thought. Till one day in January when she phoned me up, screamed at me for — I’m not sure again — something about picking him over her, and hung up on me. She wouldn’t take my phone calls later that night. Apparently, she had talked to a couple of other friends about how she had been feeling about this, but not to me. So we didn’t talk again. Our friends tried to get us together, but we weren’t having it. I don’t remember how we made up from this one, but I’m sure it was her who came to me. We cam back to where we were, but it wasn’t the same. I felt betrayed. We never fully healed from that one. We were going in separate directions that fall – me to Hamilton, her to Windsor, and we ended up just drifting apart when that last year of high school was over.
During my first winter away at University, I had a dream about her. I don’t remember it now, but I remember that it was that dream which was the impetus for me to e-mail her, ask her how she was doing, and try to reconnect. She responded, and from then we kept up an inconsistent communication until the end of University.
Graduating from University was a tough time for me. We met once for dinner right after graduation. I remember she had a beer, which I thought was weird never having seen her drink before (we were a pretty conservative bunch in high school). Shortly thereafter, I made a quick decision to leave the country for the summer, and I did. I spent two months in London, and when I came back, I sent out an e-mail inviting friends, her included, to a birthday party I was having in a few days. I received a scathing response from her. Something to the effect that I hadn’t bothered to let her know I was leaving the country, so why did I think she would want to come celebrate my birthday…
After that, we only had very sporadic communication on and off over the years. Fast forward several years – and lifetimes – later, and the world of social networking ended up putting us back in touch. She eventually suggests we should get together for a cup of coffee, which we do. I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been on a first date. We meet, she gives me a big hug, we sit down, and she starts to talk. And she talks. And talks. And talks. And I realize that she’s a different person than the friend I once had. But then, so am I. 15 years ago, I talked. She listened. This time, she talks, and I listen. It’s not deep, or emotional. We’re not sharing our personal feelings about our lives and about our relationship and what happened to it. For so long I missed that friend, and I thought maybe this evening over a cup of coffee may take us back to the place where we once were, but I realized quickly that it wouldn’t. Because we’re not those people anymore. We said goodbye with hugs and promises to do it again soon. We both knew we never would.