To The Friend That Turned Into A Lesson: I Wish You Stayed

Dear old friend,

I know it has been long since we last spoke, but I wish you knew that I think of you all the time. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about how you are doing or how you now spend your hours.

I think of you during celebrations and wonder if you would have been proud of me, what you’d say to me. I think of you after every adventure, especially the small ones that you would have loved hearing about.

I think of you when grief strikes and ask myself if you would have had the right words to make it better. Even when I know there are no right words, I evoke your image like a fairy or a fairy godmother, people who always have answers, solutions, or spells to make things better.

Sometimes I try to recall what your laugh sounds like, and at other times, random memories of your voice flood my brain. There are the endless moments I catch myself awkwardly when saying your name in a casual conversation, as though we were still a part of each other’s lives. I wonder how pungent my grief of losing you is—can people smell it on me? I wonder if you also think of me in the million ways that I still think of you.

My dearest, I wish you weren’t a lesson or a season in my life. I’d have given up so much to make you and I last forever.

I’d imagined us giggling like teenagers as we strolled the long winding roads of wherever we were. You’d have a baby stroller—I knew you would have a child. But your other arm would be hooked into mine. We’d talk about how pointless romantic partners were most of the time—we were each other’s soulmates. We’d take large gulps of our caramel lattes or from our ginormous water bottles.

We’d go to the beach and watch the waves hit the shore every week. We’d eat ice cream, old school vanilla cones. We’d talk about the things we wanted from life and the ones that worked out. I’d remind you that we’re still young; you’d look at your child and say that it’s his turn now. I’d adore the mother you’ve become, hoping you don’t forget that your turn isn’t over.

You’d go home to your husband, and I to my plants. We’d call each other up soon enough, maybe in a week, or a day, or even a few hours. We’d laugh and sigh at the unending glory of our friendship. We really got lucky, we’d say. I love you, we’d say.

But that isn’t how any of it turned out. Time severed our story. You made new friends. I got busy. Our misunderstandings weren’t tended to. Our love wasn’t prioritized. You moved away. I didn’t say goodbye. We tried, but not enough.

I wish we had the other story but this is the one we got—I was at the lake when you got married and found out about your son through Instagram.

Still, I believe in a parallel universe. One where words replaced our silences, effort replaced complacence, and faith replaced defeat. And today, I raise a toast to those women in that world, the women we could have been.

I am still learning to say your name without it getting caught between my teeth, desperately wishing for my fangs to chew it into a softer story. I’m learning to stop mixing and drinking that cocktail of wistfulness and jealousy each time I see you with your new friends. I’m learning to accept that you were an important part of my story without needing you to be a part of it right now.

I’m learning that some forevers are just shorter than others. I’m learning to love you from a distance. I’m learning that no matter what, I will love you always.

I hope that no matter what, you know this always.

All my heart,

Your old friend