I had friends, best friends, ‘til God cast us far and wide. He flicked his wrist hard, and we scattered like so many Pick Up Sticks. None of us touched, not geographically anyway. Hefty phone bills and no time to write widened the distance between us. We didn’t have a choice, did we? We had to start over. In new places. With new women.
“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. I fiddled with my daughter’s onesie snaps. 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 jar with a lid on, and a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover. That’s how my oldest brother used to get bugs, for his collection. I turned away slightly and cupped my hand to push air into my mouth. So I could breathe. 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 calls. We can talk like, every day now.” And we did for awhile. ‘Til 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 to never say never. She was silent, and I saw our friendship, like an egg, roll across a surface that wasn’t level, but tilted ever so slightly downhill.
I met another gal 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. I got used to it though—her scaredy-cat aura. It seemed to lessen the more we hung out. Our kids got taller. We grew closer. At one point though, in my mind, I pretended to be a traffic cop. I held my arm out, 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 gal I said no to visited the other day. We sat side by side on the sofa. You’re more like me than anyone I know. I smiled as my kids laughed with hers. Only thing is, you don’t wear mascara. She hugged me before she got in the car to leave. “It’s like I never left.” I stepped back and nodded. Watched them drive 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 called my best friend from childhood. “Tell me all that stuff you do again,” I said. “The natural, organic, herbal, and homeopathic stuff.”
I winced. “Really. And maybe-- Maybe we should do that thing people say.”
Her voice sounded farther away than three hours. “What thing?”
“You know, the ‘Never discuss religion and politics’ thing.”
I pictured her on the other end of the phone. She'd lift her chin as she got it. “You think?”
“Yeah. I do.”
Things are better now. We're almost to the place we were before. There’s still this 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. See, despite phone calls, emails, and texts, I missed her. A whole lot. As I walked up her driveway I wondered if she’d be able to tell the difference. That the SaranWrap’s gone now.