I’ve had my fair share of best friends in my seventeen years, each representing a defining period of my life. Most of them had faded away due to the natural progression of life, leaving a distant, hollow friendship in its place.
Alex was one of these.
She was my Allison of yesteryear—or to be more specific, middle school. Five years ago it was us against the world, with our impressive teamwork skills and cooperation, our dual ambitions and wild dreams. We were joined at the hip, did everything together, and looked at life as if it was us against the world.
Then things happened.
High school and growing up and life progressed, and now she was in Texas and I in California with hardly anything keeping us together. Our normal activities and projects we did together were replaced with the demands of high school, and things just faded.
We tried to keep things together. We’d talk about me coming to see her in Texas and her coming to see me in California, but as time went on, those conversations started to dissipate. As we developed lives outside of each other, it became less and less of a necessity to hold on. And worst of all, we started to get comfortable with the idea that we wouldn’t be best friends forever.
Life moved on, and it was strangely easy to accept.
But somehow, due to some unexpected twists and turns of life, here I was sitting in front of her at a Whataburger in Texas, 1391 miles away from home.
It’s funny how things work out.
I hadn’t heard her voice in one and a half years. I forgot what her laugh sounded like, what kinds of things she said, her little quirks, her little habits, the things that made her her. Over the past few years she had faded into a name on Facebook, a contact in my phone, with hardly anything keeping her alive. Years apart does that to your memory.
But after all that time apart, we were sitting here, face to face, wearing matching bracelets that we got five years ago.
They still fit.
It seemed like that single phrase sparked a steady stream of nostalgia that never faded. We caught up on old things, old friends, old acquaintances, and old less than friends (whom our middle school selves would perhaps even describe as archenemies). Some people were doing well, some were just the same, and others had succumbed to amusingly fitting fates.
I couldn’t help but remember how the two of us used to be fairly skilled in Photoshop and GIMP and how we started a graphic design empire within our middle school cohorts, trading graphics for favors. I remember how she always used to sing You and I by Lady Gaga during awkward silences and I’d yell at her to stop, how she was crazily obsessed with Jake Gyllenhaal (update: she still is), and how we used to play Club Penguin for hours on end.
And I remember how we used to sit around, talking about boys and middle school drama like they were the biggest, most important topics in the world.
But that was then.
We were here now, seventeen and eighteen years old and both ready to go off to college. Our lives had drastically improved, drastically changed, and drastically progressed—without each other.
After years of being identified as one and the same entity, after years of being “Erica and Alex”, after years of being that pair of best friends that always did everything together, here we were, completely and wholly apart.
It was the kind of thing that we promised each other would never happen.
But despite all this, despite the absurdity and unexpectedness of this exact situation ever happening, despite the fact that up till two weeks ago I didn’t expect to see Alex ever again, this day didn’t feel very special.
It didn’t feel like a cinematic reunion of long-lost best friends. It didn’t feel like we hadn’t spoken to each other in years, like I had been taken aback by hearing her voice for the first time in years, like I had no idea what was going on in her life now.
It felt like a normal Saturday.
Even though it had been years since we had had an extended conversation, here we were driving around Austin, talking, eating, sightseeing, mini golfing, like old friends. Distance and life had severed our friendship, but its frayed ends were still straining to reconnect.
Our hobbies, common interests, and appreciation for each other had vanished at surface-level, but whatever underlying connection, whatever undying bond or lasting nostalgia for our friendship remained—like those five years of being best friends hadn’t truly faded away.
It felt the same. It felt normal. That Saturday didn’t feel like I had flown halfway across the country to see her, or as if she had driven six hours round-trip just to spend a day with me.
Those five years of memories, of experiences, of mutual friends, of highlights and arguments, they were not negated by our slow drift apart. They still sat there, stagnant, waiting to be talked about, waiting to be reminisced.
I do miss staying up late at night talking about and ranting about people, crying and arguing about our petty problems, and catching up on each other’s lives. Middle school seems so far away now, (and boy are we happy to have left it behind), but we left behind some good times as well.
We aren’t close anymore, but this half a decade of memories will never truly escape us, permeated by old connections and occasional “remember when” texts. Even if things don’t go back exactly to how they were, even if we never fully reconnect again, the memories of our friendship will still live on.
Maybe that’s the true “forever” in “best friends forever”.