The warm breeze licked at our hair and the salty water lapped at our feet, stinging our blisters resulting from the long day of exploring theme parks and riding roller coasters. I watched the stars illuminate and flicker above me as we walked along the shore line for hours until you found a quiet spot away from spring breakers. You sat down in the water, unafraid of anything lurking beneath. You began to pull me down with you.
“What about the sand?”
“The sand? It’s just sand. Come on, the water’s warm.”
The sand was actually cozy, even inviting, as it still had the day’s heat trapped inside of it. It almost burned me to sit, but the waves of the ocean cooled my skin as I relaxed. The tide was making its way in and the salty water pushed past our thighs and encircled our hips, but you were unconcerned. You searched through your phone and Pink Floyd filled the empty air. We both leaned back to stare at the stars and talk about nothing and everything at the same time.
The meaning of life, outer space, fate, religion, the unknown.
By the time we covered all daunting subjects known to man it was two A.M and you asked if I believed in horoscopes. I thought about it, and answered. “I think it’s nice to think that our fates are connected to something much bigger than us. It’s humbling, and I mean how can we stare at such an incredible universe and not think there’s more to it?”
“So what you’re really saying is when I screw up I can just blame it on fate?” You splashed water my way as you joked.
I rolled over in the sand and my body shook with laughter. “Yes, essentially.”
We got up and began heading back, sand covering our backsides, not a care in the world that there was sand in our bikinis.
It was weird, learning to live in the moment. But with you, it was so easy. Before that day I had been terrified of putting my life in a giant murder machine’s seats but with you I was excited to try knew things because “You might never get this chance again”. Before meeting youI had always been worried about something, scared about another. There was just something about the way you carried yourself, shoulders out and chin up, that radiated confidence. It radiated out of you and into others, and your smile was addicting. I watched even the cockiest of men quiver as you walked by and you would smile at them, almost innocently, knowing the power you had over them. Yet you never flaunted yourself. Many were envious of you. You were carefree, a free spirit, independent even, and didn’t seem to feel the same pressures of school and society that the rest of us did.
But I knew you, I knew your secrets and insecurities because you trusted me with them, as I trusted you with mine. Your biggest fear was never getting out of this small town and being stuck without any future. I knew that you secretly hated chocolate sprinkles on ice cream but ate them anyway because your little brother liked them, and he always stole a bite or two. I knew that you hated when people wrote mean things on bathroom stalls, and would scratch out themean words when you could.
We rarely called ourselves best friends, we said we were sisters.
I’m so nervous.
My stomach is filled with rocks, my mouth with broken glass, and my feet with knives. I am so nervous. My first hockey game, and my eyes are blurred and the noise from the stands bounces around like ping pong balls in my head. I step out on the ice for my first shift and feel the crisp ice crunch beneath me. Stalling, I saunter my way to center ice.
God, why am I so nervous?
Nothing feels right. My shoulders are tense, and the skates I had been lacing up all season felt like they were on the wrong feet. I stare hard at my opponent, waiting for the puck to drop, and then I see it. Right behind the net, a huge sign with “GO BEST FRIEND, DAS MY BEST FRIEND” in bold lettering.
Suddenly, my skates are on the right feet again.
You knew nothing about hockey, and had never even attended one. But you still yelled at the ref for bad calls, all to make me laugh. At one particularly bad game I remember you asking the ref a multitude of questions, included ‘Does your wife know you’re screwing us?’ and ‘Check your phone, I’m pretty sure you missed a few calls.’ You weren’t doing it to be mean, but solelyto make me laugh, to ease my nerves. You cheered me on, even when I fell on my butt and slid all over the ice. You hated the cold but you still came to support me, even though I hadn’t asked you to. After the game I asked how you thought I did, and you said “You skated gracefully… like snowflakes falling from the sky.” I laughed and asked you how long it took to practice saying that line with a straight face. You smiled that brilliant smile, and asked if I wanted to go back to your place to celebrate the survival of my first hockey game.
So we did.
It’s two A.M.
It’s two A.M. and we sit in the back of his truck laughing and singing and dancing and swaying and moving our bodies in every way the beat allowed us. They are your friends, but now they’re mine also. I’m not nervous and I’m not scared. Alone, maybe I would be. But I am not alone, I am with you. I’m at peace with the world and everything wrong with it and everything scary about it because right here, right now, I am where I need to be and anywhere else would be the wrong place at the wrong time and I am just so perfectly at peace with it all.
More friends pull up and the music gets turned up louder. We are on our feet now, you and me, dancing around the fire with its flames reaching, almost grasping for us. Our tan legs glowed with its scarlet hue. Your laugh echos in my ear as I feel the cool smoothness of the stones we dance on under me. Suddenly, you stop dancing and grab my arm, your eyes wide and your mouth angled slightly upwards. You giggle and run towards the newly discovered pond ahead of us, motioning for me to follow. We strip down to almost nothing and jump.
I hear the muffled laughs and screams of our friends above me and I see you point to the surface. I swim up and the cool summer breeze sticks to my face. Squinting through the water droplets in my eyes, I see the silhouettes of our friends running towards us, clothes flying, in the distance.
“They probably think they’re going to get lucky.” You are still smiling as we tread the water beneath us, watching our friends-now turned savages- rip through the water en route to us. You shake your head, chuckling. “Let’s get out of here.”
Every year, my mother tells me to dump every piece of clothing out on my floor and put it all back neatly. However, there some rules: If you don’t like it and have no idea why you own it, put it in the give-away pile. If you have outgrown it, it goes in the pile. If you haven’t worn it within the last several months, bring it to the pile. And finally, if it is not yours and you can’t identify the owner (and it doesn’t fit you), put it in the pile. Sometimes it would seem like this mountain of a pile toward over my sister and I, and we are usually left to wonder how we came to acquire so many clothes.
The week before our sophomore year began, I began to dread this chore. My closet and room was riddled with your things, and touching them stung my hands so deeply they bled. In a heat of anger, I managed to rid my room your filth. Pictures were torn off the walls and clothes thrown into the hall as I felt my cheeks hot and sticky with confused anger. I thought I had cleansed you from my life, but later that year I was rummaging through my closet in hopes of finding my field hockey stick when I came across a baseball cap that didn’t belong to me. It had been wedged in the top right corner, between some old jeans and t-shirts that really should have been thrown out years ago. I immediately recognized it as yours, because I remember ransacking your house looking for the damn thing. We were late for our plans but you would not step foot out of the house without it. We ended up staying in that night and watching a Brad Pitt marathon instead.
I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. So there it still sits.
I often wondered if my things physically hurt you to touch, too, or if you just stuffed them in a garbage bag and threw them out. Or maybe you shoved them under your bed like you did all objects you deemed unworthy. For reasons I don’t know and probably will never understand, you shoved me under your bed that summer as well.
I stared down at the opened text message. My mind was blank and I could not move my thumbs or feel my toes. My heart sunk as if an anchor had attached itself to it and was receding to the deepest depths of the ocean. It was the first message, or really any form of communication, from you in weeks.
Me: What’s going on with us. Did I do something or… ?!?
You: I’m not talking about this right now. I’m with people.
I guess what you really meant was you were never going to talk about it at all, whether you were with people or not.
I will never understand how you can spend three years building a friendship with someone and then one day decide that you no longer care. How do you remove their memories from your past? You always said that best friend breakups are worse than boyfriend breakups, because boys are expected to come and go, but friends are supposed to be there through everything, the little fights and the big ones. I suppose that advice didn’t apply to you.
I now understand why they are so much worse, because now my memories of you won’t fade away. I know all these little quirks and secrets about you that I don’t know what to do with. They clutter my mind and randomly appear whenever I see chocolate sprinkles, look at the stars, or watch a movie that stars Brad Pitt. They are sketched into my head and I cannot scratch them out like you can scratch out bathroom graffiti. I want to hate you for ditching me, for leaving me all alone, but every memory of you except for the last is associated with euphoria. I cannot hate you because I cannot hate roller coasters & sandy bikinis, stars & skinny dipping, and skating & snowflakes because they are the things that built me, that make me happy and at peace. Even if they remind me of you.