When I was in grade school, my mother often expressed concern at the fact that I seemed to sequester myself from about ninety-nine percent of the rest of the student population, forsaking communal social opportunities in favor of investing all of my energy/enthusiasm into only one best friend.
In fact, I made my first BFF at the age of four – where, as a kindergartener clad in a flared fuchsia dress and a matching, oversized hair bow, to boot – Christine Celeste came up to my desk and declared, quite matter-of-factly and free of the social paralysis that generally prohibits one from making declarative sentences of this nature beyond the age of seven (save for drunk women in the bathroom line at a club), “I LOVE your hair.”
And that was it. She stuck her claim and won my heart, and the other kids became invisible to me – there was only one Christine. For years, we were inseparable; and although we noted, with no small amount of obliviousness to the irony of the situation, that we were complete opposites in virtually every way, we maintained a sister-like kinship that lasted for the better portion of my childhood.
In high school and college, Christine and I went our separate ways, choosing different paths but always remaining on the very best of terms. To this day, if my sassy, curly-haired friend calls me, she knows that I’ll always answer the phone, and that the sound of her voice will feel like the best part of home to me.
During my sophomore year of college in Boston, I took an off campus apartment that was somewhat sequestered from the door rooms where the rest of my friends cohabitated. Lonely and open to the possibility of meeting other “off campus friends,” I bumped into – almost literally — *Amy while walking down Huntington Avenue on my way to class.
She wore bright pink blush and a matching colored Burberry puffer.
Though struck by her overt Charlotte-From-Sex-And-The-City-Like cheerfulness upon initial impact, I found that she was far more dynamic than just that television character alone. Amy was smart, funny, kind, sarcastic, and real; there was no competition or envy between us. As natives of the tristate area, obviously, we shared a love for New York City and dreamed of the day when we would be able to escape the cruelties of Boston and go back “home,” if home were a high-rise condominium with floor to ceiling glass windows on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We were dreamers, girls who came from similar backgrounds and saw the world through the same lens.
Amy was the kind of friend who would lend me her black Steve Madden pumps and pretend not to notice when I forgot to give them back to her for eight weeks. I was the kind of friend who would pick up the phone at four in the morning and talk her through her tears while she grappled with deeply personal issues that she endured and that I could relate to.
After college, Amy went back home to the tristate, while I stayed in Boston for several more years. Still, we never allowed more than a day to pass without talking for at least one hour – it became a ritualistic part of our routines to take turns serving as one another’s personal psychotherapists in the way that Oprah does with Gail and vice versa.
Procuring personal information from me can be a task that’s akin to interrogating an especially stubborn inmate at Guantanamo, but with Amy, it was effortless. Our entire friendship was organic actually, Each year, we planned a small joint birthday party (our birthdays were about a week and a half apart), took trips, gossiped about people or situations in a juvenile, if relatively innocuous way, and validated each other’s points regarding any and every subject.
At twenty-five, I moved back to New York abruptly after canceling the wedding that I had planned with my then fiancé seven months before it was scheduled to actually take place. With all of my worldly possessions lodged into bulging Hefty bags, I looked like a beverly hillbilly, checking into a series of Manhattan hotels until I could reconstruct an entirely new life for myself. This would include finding an apartment, a job, personal and professional contacts, and a sustainable plan of some sort forthwith.
While I sifted through the dust and attempted to reconstruct my life within the confines of my hotel room, I would call Amy each night. She had recently met a guy that she was very serious about, so in the beginning stages of their dating, she stopped answering her phone in the evenings. When I would get home from the the voracious process of apartment/job searching, and give her a call, I consistently hit voicemail, and I understood that. It’s incredible to be young and in love, and if this were “the one” for Amy, then I truly wanted her to be happy.
As I found an apartment, took my first job in the Big Apple, and started socializing again, Amy and I barely spoke. For the first time in our friendship, I was mildly disappointed in her, but I chalked it up to the beginning phases of her new love and focused on moving forward. The human spirit is stronger than we often think, and in times of great stress, we often pull ourselves forward more rapidly than ever before.
More time passed, though, and it became abundantly obvious that something was very wrong. When Amy and I finally had a discussion about it over the phone, she told me, in a declarative sentence, that the summer had been a “disaster for our friendship.”
Although Amy’s disposition was ordinarily sweet and demure, she was aggressively distant during the duration of that phone call. From me? The basics: why was she all of a sudden mad at me for the first time and only time in seven years? Didn’t she realize that if anything, I had a right to be upset when she wasn’t there for me during an extremely stressful situation, as well? And, perhaps, most importantly, despite any and all of this, wasn’t our relationship a sisterhood that could withstand anything, let alone one single, stand alone argument?
As Amy spoke to me with a palpably seething anger in her tone — something that I had never seen in her before — I only wanted to respond with the things I couldn’t say out loud: I don’t believe that your alleged grievances with me are valid. I feel that we’ve grown apart because you wanted the friendship to end for reasons that surpass the trivial, inconsequential things that you’re stating about me now. You want to dismiss me as being a superficial bitch, void of brain density or emotion, but you know me SO MUCH BETTER than that. You’ve judged me from afar, become a stranger, whose analyzing a villanized version of me that exists in your mind alone. I’m not who you’re saying I am, but you’re giving up on me anyway.
We tried to move forward and even met for lunch shortly thereafter, a feat that I believed afforded us the opportunity to talk it all out and move forward. But, I received a text from Amy a few short days later. She prefaced the message with a curt, if distant, apology and then said that she felt that we’d grown apart, and that while she would “willing” to leave the door ajar for some kind of a relationship in the future, she no longer wanted to communicate.
I’d invested so much in the friendship, and I was never given an explanation about why it really ended. Months later, I sent Amy a heartfelt message expressing my concerns and telling her that I really missed her, but she reiterated her previous feelings about not wanting to “go there,” and solidified the discourse by stating, “I’ve prayed about it.”
I took it in harshly, personally. My discomfort with the situation was not something I discussed often.
I knew that I was always loyal to Amy, even defending her against other common acquaintances and assuming the brunt of their wraths — and that I was always genuine in my position as a best friend. Most people who heard about the situation categorized it as a case of jealousy, insisting to me that she was a fraud who had probably harbored some measure of ill will towards me all along.
I don’t know if that’s true or not, and candidly, it no longer matters. I learned how to wish her all the best.
My mother’s concerns about the fact that I had sequestered myself in grade school turned out to be legitimate. Finally, I heeded her advice and chose to open myself up to the world in a way that I never had before. I became significantly more grateful for the good people that I had around me, viewing each one of them as intricate treasures that served as the cornerstones of my life. I stopped to take note of my moments more — you know, the ones that become the memories that will one day define and memorialize our lives. Gone are the days of a shy, insular girl, clinging to one close friend – I opened myself up to the world, and it received me — with the same fervor as Christine Celeste did when she told me that she loved my hair and sealed the deal.