“Somebody asked me if I knew you….A million memories flashed through my mind, but I just smiled and said I used to.”
About a year ago, my best friend and I broke up.
It’s not the first time we’ve been angry with each other and it’s not the first time we’ve gone a long stretch without speaking; each of us too angry, stubborn and self-righteous to extend the olive branch that would bring us back to one another.
But in the past, it had never been a question of if we would reconcile. It was just a matter of when. We were drawn to each other in a way that made the idea of going through life without the other, inconceivable.
Ours was a friendship that was forged in our childhood. We’re cousins, but our biology wasn’t what bonded us. In our family, familial bonds are tenuous at best. Not even a wedding, or a funeral are guaranteed reunions.
We chose our friendship and we worked to maintain it. Even when the adults in our lives were falling apart and fighting and cared little for their collateral damage.
So in many ways, we were each others refuge. Not just from the storms in our family, but through the storms of adolescence and all the ups and downs that come with being teenagers and then young adults.
We had our own language that consisted of facial expressions and single words that just between us, could convey an entire story. And we had so many stories that made up a crazy, beautiful tapestry of life and love and loss and friendship and growth and adventures.
We were each others witness; keepers.
This break-up though, is different. At least for me. This time, it’s for good.
The title above would suggest it was a guy who came between us, but in truth, he was just a catalyst. We are deeper and more complicated than that.
For a long time, we had been walking roads that seemed to run parallel to one another. Our roads weren’t exactly the same, we each had our own goals and obstacles to overcome. But we remained close enough to hold hands as we helped each other over and around and through.
But eventually, our roads began to diverge. As we headed in fundamentally different directions, I tried to pull her onto my path. Not because hers was no good, or because mine was so much better, but because I could clearly see that we were headed toward very different horizons.
We had grown up with one another and then we had grown out and away into very different people. Our relationship lived solidly in the past. It required that we constantly double back to the place where our roads still ran side by side in order for us to find one another again; back to the people we had been before we’d become wives and mother’s and had to make difficult decisions about careers and family and finances and all the other grown-up hard stuff of life.
But you can’t stay in the past. You can visit it and reminisce and then you have to return to the present and keep pressing forward. And I had to admit that the people we’d become, had stopped being the others keeper and witness a long time ago.
In these last several years, our friendship had begun to feel like something I was holding tight to so that it wouldn’t escape. I was exhausted by it and as this last year has passed, I’ve wondered what to do next.
The idea that if you love something you should let it go, seemed too simple and easy, but then again, if it felt that way, I thought there was a reason for that.
And then, the other day, while driving, I heard a remix of the song 99 Red Balloons and I thought, “Yes, this makes sense,” as I sang along….
It’s all over and I’m standin’ pretty
In the dust that was a city,
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here it is, a red balloon
I think of you and let it go….