Thursday, November 11, 2010

Twenty-Two Candles, and No Birthday Song

"A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave."
~Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert (said by her friend, Richard)

I can think of at least seven other things I should be doing right now, at 11:30 at night, that aren't writing on Sneezeweed. I should be diving into the pile of dirty laundry in the corner so I will have something to wear in the morning. I should be working on my midterm, due tomorrow. I should be sending e-mails for my internship. I should be cleaning out my overflowing closet. I should be writing a paper on culture. I should be booking a New Years vacation. I should be sleeping. I should not be sitting here pouring my heart out on Sneezeweed, blogging for the second time today. But this is serious. I can assure you that there will be no uplifting ending, no dreamy metaphoric moral, no sigh of relief and comfort at the end of this post. Today was a hard day. 

November 10th is almost over, and I still haven't talked to the one person who has been on my mind all day. It is her twenty-second birthday, she blew out twenty-two candles just a few hours ago, I am sure of it. And if you would have told me a year ago that I wouldn't be celebrating with her today I surely wouldn't have believed you. For anyone to understand why this is so devastating, you would have had to have known us. We were two peas in one pod, one mind in two bodies, two souls twisted into one perfect pair. We were best friends from the time we were small children; the only two who chose to knot friendship bracelets under the slide instead of playing soccer in the field at recess (although I am sure I finished hers for her, when she got too impatient, while she tossed rocks at the shiny underside of the slide). As we got older we were literally inseparable. We shared locker combinations and crushes, lunches and secrets, jokes and families. Where one went the other joined, arm in arm, always. We had a deep and almost frightening connection. If one was upset, the other would know from miles away. One could give a look, a mere glance across the room, and the other would know her exact thought. When we talked it only took one word to tell entire stories. Others were envious of our friendship, and we could understand exactly why. It was the best kind of friendship anyone could have growing up. A shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, a trusting and loyal friend through unpredictable adolescents. I don't know how else to describe what our friendship was like. I am certain that there are no words that can truly sum it up, but Richard comes close; looking at her was like looking in a mirror. She was me, and I was her- perfect reflections of one another. 

I wish I could pinpoint what happened in the past couple of years. We were in college, living separate lives, and we naturally became less dependent on one another. It was fine. We were still as close as ever for a long time. We just needed one another a little less. But as time went on and we each started to fly off in our own directions we began to confide less and bicker more, and eventually barely talked at all. In the past year we really grew apart. I'm sure we could both point fingers and blame it on this and that, but it really doesn't matter. The fact is that today is her Birthday, and for the first time in over a decade I wasn't the first one to sing to her. I didn't buy her a present, and I didn't plan a night out to celebrate. And let me tell you, it hurt more than I ever thought it would. 

Today I felt like I was mourning a death, and I guess in a way I was. Today was the first time that I really, truly realized that I have lost the best friend I ever had. Until today I tucked her away in the corner of my mind labeled "distant friend." I am starting to realize that having distance implies that you know where the other is. And as I look around, I don't have the slightest clue what direction she is in. She is not distant, she has been lost. And like many people who have lost someone they love, I came home today and turned to old photos with remnants of scotch tape on the back, old notes scratched on college ruled notebook paper, and even back to the pages of those old literary magazines to try to grasp a bit of what we had. I had remembered that in our first year on the magazine another writer had surprised us by publishing our poems on friendship side by side. I flipped through all of the magazines until I found the one that had my name scribed on the page adjacent to hers, and I read the two poems through tear-filled eyes. Now I am not certain if the writer who placed them realized what the poems were really about when she decided to surprise us; I did not cry because of how beautiful the poems are, or because our names look so lovely on adjacent pages. I cried because both of our poems are about losing a friend. And so I sobbed. I sobbed because it was as if we knew, even then, that this could be our fate. I sobbed because it was as if we were prepared for the days when birthdays would go unrecognized and silence would fall between us. I sobbed because all I wanted to do in that moment was to call her up and say "look! we knew each-other so well, that we even knew it couldn't last!" I felt like a child who had their most treasured stuffie taken away, right before bedtime; and the only way was to cry herself to sleep and hope that it was returned in the morning. 

Richard says that it would be too painful for a soul mate to stay in your life forever, and there isn't a single doubt in my mind that she is a soul mate. She was my first soul mate; from the time we exchanged friendship bracelets under the slide until today, her twenty-second birthday. And maybe he is right. Maybe soul mates must come and go, leaving room for the magical moment when the next one will appear; but even still I would give up my most treasured stuffie if it meant that I could have our friendship back for the long haul. I can't help but think that there is still some remnant of our deep and almost frightening connection though; my urge to flip open the literary magazine, to the place where I knew I would find our adjacent names, came only a day after I wrote about how my poetry-writing-sneeze-self knows best. And do you know what I found on my side of the spine? seventeen little words, at the end of my poem, that provided the only small bit of comfort today:

when true friends drift apart,
they are held together internally,
by the simple beat of the heart. 


  1. I know exactly how this feels. My college best friend and I were practically inseparable during the 9 months of school for three years. Early last semester we had a minor disagreement and it completely tainted our last semester in school together. Now we barely speak and when we do it's nothing like it was. I still consider her my best friend despite the random list of things that slowly drove us apart over the semester. I hope you find comfort in the fact that it happens to everyone and nothing can replace the memories you have. This comment didn't turn out exactly like I had envisioned, but just know that I understand exactly what you're feeling.

  2. this made me cry and absolutely breaks my heart.


Thanks for taking some time to smell the sneezeweed!