Our last conversation was an email. I remember it clearly--I relaxed in my bed, enjoying my first Tuesday of summer vacation, looking forward to Wednesday's trip to New York City. Seemingly, judging by my expression and generally upbeat attitude, everything was fine.
When I consider the human race, I see an infinite ocean, on which all of us are floating, drifting on wooden rafts. We, all of us, are tied by ropes, some long, some short, some thick, some thin. We are all connected.
But nothing was fine. She hadn't been replying to my emails, and her behavior worried me to no end. With each passing moment, pangs of doubt struck my heart like clockwork, like perfectly-timed contractions during labor, the minute hand, moving ever-closer to midnight, sending earthquakes up my spine. There was reason for my worry. For the last several months or so, our friendship had been shaky, almost as if we were both teetering on the edge of a cliff. Any day, one of us would fall, the stroke of twelve echoing our last, angry words to one another.
When a newborn is placed on the sea of humanity, aboard her own tiny raft, she instantly forges unbreakable bonds with those closest to her. Her mother, her father, her sisters and brothers. They all surround her, and before her family can truly comprehend her existence and understand what an impact she will make, they are bound to her by both love as well as blood. Such bonds are nearly always permanent; no matter how hard you tug, they will never tear, except in cases where every trace of love, the glue of a relationship, is lost.
The ties between friends are innately different from those among family members. These ropes are fragile, created by trivial circumstances, such as age or location. These bonds are thin, and they snap at the first opportunity, or they fade as two friends drift farther and farther apart, until they are forgotten completely. There is little love in them. Even the thickest strings, reinforced over many years, can be sawed in two when the sea becomes choppy and rough. Friends must hold fast to one another, or their ties will reach the breaking point. This can never be allowed to happen. Once it does, there is no going back to the way things were.
Finally, I gave up waiting for her reply and sent her one question.
What did I do?
I crossed my fingers anxiously, hoping that her answer would reassure me that our relationship was still healthy, not as broken as I feared.
The reply came swiftly, the text burning with anger and hate.
You're selfish. I refuse to be friends with someone like you.
I remember that choking sensation in my throat as I read her words, that feeling deep within your chest as you realize you're about to cry. My eyes burned with tears. Part of me was angry, another part was simply heartbroken. How did it come to this?
I have lost many friends over the years. In third grade, the boys I played with at recess left me alone, not wanting to play with me anymore. In seventh grade, three of my best friends drifted away on the waves of humanity's ocean. But this friend, Sara, was like no one else I'd ever met. Not only had we been friends for six years, but she had always been there to listen. If I had talked for hours on end, she would have said nothing. She would have only breathed in each of my words, carefully considering them. I would have done the same for her. We laughed, and we cried. We admired the stars and danced under them, hand in hand. We were sisters in all but blood.
Thus, her last email to me came as a surprise, and it acted as a stab to my chest, a sharp dagger of hatred. I never expected any of those words. They were as if from an imposter.
I told myself it wasn't true.
I'm not as selfish and self-centered as she says.
I'm a good friend. She's the one who abandoned me.
Still, the deep hurt of heartbreak persisted, tainting my trip to New York as well as the rest of my summer. For the first time, I understood loneliness.
Now, the pain has reduced to a dull ache in my soul. Some days, I wonder if she ever cared about me at all. The sea is silent now, the storm has passed, and I am alone.
Almost. Remember those other bonds I told you about? The ones that surround every newborn child and remain with them through adulthood? On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, during the summer between eighth grade and ninth, my mother found me in the bathroom, sobbing.
It was her arms that comforted me, her soothing whispers that calmed my racing mind, her tender embrace that mended my fractured soul.
What's wrong? she asked.
I have no friends. She shook her head and smiled at me. You still have friends. Since then, my family has remained with me. They surround me now, just as they always have. I am not alone as I drift on this ocean, searching for someone like all the friends I've lost, but someone who, unlike every other, will remain with me to the end, adrift on this difficult sea.