From elementary through middle school I had one best friend. We had all our classes together, we practiced gymnastics together, were both very much girly girls. We were competitive in school but only to the point of motivating each other to do better, we never got jealous if the other did better on a test. We incessantly wrote notes back and forth. It all made sense.
In junior high things were a little different; we were still friends but there was a growing distance between us. We didn’t have many classes together and we were starting to make new friends in our bigger school.
By sophomore year of high school, there was no trace that a friendship had ever existed. We wouldn’t speak to each other, we couldn’t look each other in the eye, we didn’t even acknowledge the other’s presence. To this day, I have no idea why. Our lack of relationship made no sense to me. We hadn’t had a fight, we weren’t rivals over the same boy, and no amount of “what’s wrong?” questioning got me anywhere with her.
There was no conversation about it; she simply decided we were not friends anymore. And that was it. I lost my best friend.
As dumb luck would have it, we both made the JV cheerleading squad that year. How ironic that the team whose sole reason of existence—to promote teamwork and unity—had such divisive hatred within its own ranks. I clearly remember the coach instructing the two of us to be partners in a stunt, and neither of us budged. We both stood firmly in our spots, waiting for the other to take the first step. “MOVE IT, girls!” the coach demanded. Reluctantly we complied and formed the base of the world’s most angry pyramid.
I have a picture of us performing another partner stunt, again not of our own free will, and the look of utter disdain on her face for having to actually touch me is heartbreaking to me even now. What made me SO unworthy of her acceptance? I know I did nothing wrong. But, sadly, this question continued to nag at me for 2 decades.
I hate that it still bothers me. It makes me feel like I’m emotionally stunted, unable to get over a simple relationship. Friendships come and go all the time, part of the circle of life, right? This wasn’t the first friendship I’d lost nor was it the last.
But I feel it nonetheless, and denying it would be denying a portion of my human existence. For whatever reason, the abrupt ending of this friendship affected me. It broke something in me that has remained with me all this time, like a broken secondhand of a clock that just hangs downward, unable to spin. It doesn’t affect that day-to-day functioning, but it sure would be nice to restore it to what it once was.
But back to the dream. It was simple. In it I was attending my high school 20-year reunion, which in reality I will be attending in a few months. In the dream, she and I are walking toward each other, and before I can walk the opposite direction or look away, she speaks to me. While I can’t remember the exact words—as often happens in my dreams—the sentiment was crystal clear: she simply put an end to the feud. There was no blame placed and no apology made, but one wasn’t needed.
It was as if we simultaneously popped a bubble of anger that had been encircling each of us.
I woke rather suddenly from this dream, and remembered it immediately, feeling like I was still in it. I had a sense of peace, as if the exchange had really taken place between us.
The “why” of it all doesn’t matter anymore. For over 20 years it did, but I now realize we could easily spend 20 more years rehashing the “why” in an endless circle, and likely still not accomplish anything.
I never hated her. I only treated her badly then because she treated me badly first, and in the world of teenage girls you can’t look like you’re just taking the abuse. Never let them see you sweat and never let them know they got to you.
The reasons for our actions back then most likely wouldn’t make sense now. They’d either hurt or embarrass one or both of us to air them, and neither of those feelings is necessary in order to move ahead. We both had other personal issues we were struggling with in our respective lives that the other didn’t know about and which influenced our actions. We were young and emotionally immature, unable to deal with everything falling on us.
Two things keep repeating in my mind. A few lines from the closing monologue by Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
If we shadows have offended
Think but this, and all is mended…
Give me your hands if we be friends
and Robin shall restore amends.
The other is a few lines from Sarah McLachlan’s song “Adia,” which I never knew the story behind, but from the first time I heard it, it has always reminded me of this friend:
we are born innocent
believe me Adia, we are still innocent
it's easy, we all falter does it matter?
believe me Adia, we are still innocent...