I haven’t slept today. I stayed up all night thinking.
Thinking about friendship, and specifically mine with Long-Time Gal Pal.
Let me say first that I know we’re grown women, and the friendships we forge in childhood are going–are perhaps meant–to change. So no, I don’t expect our friendship of 20+ years (which makes me feel very old to type, by the way) to be the same as it was when we were in elementary school. We’ve grown up, as I said. Had jobs, had relationships, had kids (in her case). Found things and discovered and experienced different things. It’s going to be different for us and between us now, of course.
But I never expected it to feel different.
Since I’ve been here, she and I have…drifted. Some of it is because of her work and her other responsibilities, and I expected that. She’s got a relationship to tend to; she’s got kids to take care of. She works long hours. I know that those are taken hours, hours she has to use to do those things. I know that she’s also entitled to sleep, so of course those are hours she needs to take in order to do all the rest.
But that leaves hours open, hours that I thought we’d be able to catch up with each other. This is the longest time I’ve seen her since she moved here in 2004. I missed her in the intervening years, missed her even though I had other friends, other interests, jobs, relationships of my own. I called her when I could. Sometimes years went by when we couldn’t speak to each other because of various situations. When I discovered Facebook, I had her get an account just so I’d be able to check on her and know how she was, even if I couldn’t talk to her. And she had a daughter–my goddaughter–who I’m fiercely proud of. I wanted to know how she was, even if she never got to know me. We call ourselves sisters, pretty much because we grew up in each other’s houses. My family knows her, and her family knows me. She’s been more of a sister to me than my own sister, and since she was an only child, I gave her that sibling connection she seemed–for reasons that mystified me then and still do to this day–to crave.
So, when I decided to come here, I thought I’d be able to be with my friend again. I thought I’d get to see in what ways she’s changed, to see in what ways she’s still the same. I knew it wouldn’t be completely the same, because we’re alive and living things change. I thought there’d be time to discover the new turns and twists on the path that was our friendship.
But it wasn’t that way.
She’s off three days a week, the same three days consecutively. I know that if I worked the hours she does, I’d need one whole day just to sleep in. That’s all right. Carve out some time for her man and her kids. That’s okay, too. Some time for household maintenance, but if she’d delegate more to her kids, not to mention the things I do to help that, she’d spend less time on that. That leaves (going by my estimate, and not saying that all this is or needs to be *scheduled*) at least a half day to spend a little time with me. We could spend the time doing other things: taking the kids out, doing the dishes, cooking. I don’t need exclusive time with her. But we don’t. As it is, I spend more time with her kids. I was looking forward to October this year so we could celebrate our birthday, something we haven’t done since we were teenagers (we’re eight days apart, but when we were younger we always designated a weekend day between our birthdays to celebrate as “our birthday” together). I won’t be here for it now, and I have a feeling that she wouldn’t want to celebrate it if I were.
It makes me sad. Maybe it shouldn’t. Isn’t this what happens when you grow up? We both wanted so badly to be grown-ups when we were kids. We wanted the freedom to live our own lives. I remember we swore to each other that we’d go to the same college, share an apartment, graduate at the same time, then get jobs and live together with our kids in an enormous house. We were 10 years old when we said that.
I wish now I could shake the girl I was then and tell her that it won’t be that way in time. When you’re 10, life seems long, but I know now it’s very short. I’d tell that girl to remember every moment she has with her “secret sister”, her best-est, most special-est friend, and to cherish them, because in time, in a very, very little time, all she’ll have are the memories. In time, in a very, very little time, she’ll have no one walking the road of that friendship with her, and it will all be dust in her mouth.