In the 24 years that I've lived on this earth with about 18 of those years actively interacting with people other than my mom, my dad, and my two brothers, I've realized something—how unrealistic the socially constructed view on friendship is and how that has affected me, brainwashed me.
I always had these ceiling-high expectations on friendships built from what attachments I couldn't fulfill from moving from place to place, year after year. Sometimes only a few months in between. But I never stopped trying. Every where I went, I made a new best friend and then I would lose them the moment we picked up our suitcases in the middle of the night, climb into the backseat of a minivan, and drive to another state. Gain, lose, gain, lose again. The media didn't help either. I watched Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, and then Seinfeld, Friends, and then New Girl and How I Met Your Mother. These people, non-blood relatives, knew each other for decades, ride and died for one another, no questions asked, was there for one another through their best and their worst, meddled in every situation, and knew their friends more than their friends knew themselves. I wanted that.
At 10 years old, I break up with my first boyfriend. We never kiss. We never even hold hands. He asks me out, I like him enough, and he is sweet. The only people that know are my best friend—Vanessa, my boyfriend, and I. Several weeks after we break up and as I was trying to figure out my own feelings as a 10 year old dumpee, my best friend reveals her own fond feelings for him. So, I play cupid and make them an item. Why? Because my friendship meant more to me than a pubescent relationship that lasted all of 6 days that no one knew existed. Shortly after their relationship begins, it ends. She replaces me with the New Girl who just moved into the same apartment complex we all live at.
At 12 years old, my best friend is a Chinese girl I share every single class with. We speak almost every night: hours on AIM as we strategically draft away messages and hours on the phone on topics like boys, homework, and how much she hates her father and how I wish mine is around more. I get a second boyfriend. He gives me my first kiss. I call my best friend and tell her. She says, “I wish I can be happy for you. But I can’t.” I am confused. “I like him, too.” I am stuck. My friendship begins to deteriorate. I assign the cause of deterioration to my boyfriend and break up with him. My best friend and I pick up where we leave off. We don’t stay friends very long after I move to another state.
At 14 years old, I am freshman and obtain the title—The New Girl In School. Double whammy. I sit quietly in Italian class and a senior begins to divulge each problem she has with a very specific boy. I listen. I listen because her story is intriguing, quintessential to “the” high school experience. I listen because she is literally just word-vomitting right into my ear and I can’t move out of this seat. I listen because she is nice to me. I think we’ll be best friends. (Spoiler: We still are.) I make two more friends in Biology class the same year. They copy my homework. In return, we go to one of their homes to take 10-sec self-timer pics (the selfies before the term “selfie”) and discuss school politics and who is on whose Top 8s. One tells me that she threatens to call DYFS on her dad. I learn what DYFYS is. One day, I tell them I can’t hang out because my Italian Class best friend and I are going on an adventure after school. The next day, I come to class and they ignore me. The following day, I sit there quietly self-loathing, still hoping it will blow over. The day after that, I find a picture of us three—ripped up, my head torn out of the image, and pieces stapled all over. I think we’re done for good.
At 17 years old, I meet my new best friend over sushi and scary stories. She is 20. We are inseparable. She teaches me how to stay up until 3am on a school night, drink Jägermeister, smoke hookah, give birthday lapdances, and climb roofs with only one functioning arm. Her parents become my parents. My mom is her mom. We speak every day. We join the same gym. I hold surprise birthdays for her. She takes me to NYC for mine. Our group of 6-10 people is destructive (yet respectful) everywhere we go, usually at a hookah lounge. I am convinced that we will be best friends forever, sitting on rocking chairs on a porch of a nursing home in Florida, cursing at our grandkids, with white overgrown hair. 4 years later, her father gets sick, again. She is 24 and I am 21. We are different now. We have a fight. We never recover. In fact, we never speak again. At 22 years old, I speak to her again at her father’s funeral.
At 21 years old, I am preventing my very inebriated best friend from getting arrested for peeing in a very public street. I hold him up while another zips up his pants. He threatens to burn me with his cigarette. And then he pushes me. I lose a best friend that night as I pick up my dignity from the ground.
At 23 years old, I learn that loss can come in a package. I lose three of my oldest and closest best friends. Two share the same blood as I, and one of which, I swore did, too. Family can be hard to run from. Memories play a large part. Time, too. Facebook albums littered with titles like “The birds and bees....and the BIG O.”—sushi, while taking selfies, while having important conversations like losing one’s virginity to “swimming in fishbowls 0.o”—sneaking into clubs, underage, while using the same ID, and doing fishbowl-stands. Through thick and then, we said. Always and forever, we signed in every birthday card, congratulation card, and Facebook post. Decades of crucial development watched and carried by three and then four young women. And then I learn, too, that family is a term people say often but words are generally just words. Always and forever are just that—words. Movement can tear people apart. As I sprint up the metaphorical ladder of life, they look up at me several steps below and ask me to slow down. My legs kept moving and they disguise our differences with bullshit and complaints. Voices of negativity or lack of voice, overall, quickly replaces the tones of from previous years. We dress up shit with tutus and lipstick but, in the end, it still smells like shit. I stop going to New Jersey. They never come to New York. I try to call her. She forges lies to allow her to sleep better at night. A decade old friendship at 24 years old feels like a lifetime but ask me again when I’m 50 years old. Even shit gets old and become compost for something greater.
At 24 years old, my best friend commits suicide. I also find out that he’s been lying about our platonic relationship to countless amount of people. Threesomes, he said. Ex-girlfriend, he said. I am betrayed. But anger is useless when it’s directed at someone who is no longer there. The anger can only be directed right back to myself. Forgive, forgive. Forgive. The ultimate loss.
Photo by Daniela Spector