We were BFF’s, BFFL’s, sisters from another mister, and all the social jargon that would apply. We met in high school and although we had very different personalities, we hit it off extremely well. We made the transition from friend to family very seamlessly and it was not uncommon for her to stop by to see my parents or for us to go on family vacations together. She was my bestie at a time in my life when I craved stability and clung to anything that gave me value. We were inseparable—or so I thought.
For reasons that I won’t get into in a public forum out of respect for our friendship, I will simply say that we lost touch. We went to college together and vowed to grow old together. We made the same friends in college, rolled deep in the same social circle, it was all about shared experiences, time, and memories.
And then one day it all changed. We both hit a rough patch in our separate lives that prevented us from being entirely there for each other. And our friendship didn’t survive. I was devastated. I can talk cavalierly about it now because of hindsight and the many years that have passed that allowed me to work through the anger, betrayal, and intense tragedy I felt having lost my best friend. As there is never one side to anything, I’m sure that she felt some of the same.
Six years later, after intermittent attempts on both our ends to either rekindle our partnership or make the other cry, around the holidays, I received a friend request from her on Facebook. It was as if the Ghost of Friendships Past slapped me upside the head. My heart leapt in my throat and I felt all those emotions that I thought I had worked through resurface. The wound was reopened and oozing bitterness and resentment, but more than anything it was leaking tears.
After a couple Facebook message exchanges, texts, and a cease fire on both sides, we decided this time to keep in touch. And I am thankful that we did. That year she actually got engaged, and I was one of the first people to find out. We had dreamed of our weddings together, seen each other through some pretty hilarious choices in partners, and I truly shed tears of happiness for her that she was officially off the market. Even in the sudden-death throws of our battle, I always just wanted her to be happy.
In many ways, she was always my Achilles heal. I acted tough about everyone else, and got over that boyfriend who broke up with me pretty easily considering how difficult a time I had moving on from her. Luckily, with her exit I was able to refocus on the friendships that remained in my life. And boy did they flourish. For a girl who never understood the whole “I’d rather have one true friend than 1,000 fake ones,” I am so lucky to have the few solid remarkable, immeasurable female companions that I do.
Similar to a romantic ex establishing contact again, you always overanalyze everything. We became friends again, but we’d never be the friends that we had been. Once you’ve been that close, and then become strangers, it’s almost impossible. We may not have burned the bridge but it was still far too great of a gap to cross.
Alas, her wedding approached and I grew more and more excited for the details of the day. This is an event that, had it happened years ago, I would have had a hand in organizing and would have definitely been a part of. Even with our friendship in its present form, we talked about how weird it was that I wouldn’t be standing up next to her.
I hung the RSVP card on my fridge and stared at it every day. I felt like it opened me up to either more heartache, more regret, or the wrong decision. Ultimately, I decided to go. I wanted to honor the girls that we once were, and the friendship that I once cherished. And I knew that if there was a day, maybe years from now, when we were again close, I would be happy having been there. A lot of life happened in the time of us not speaking. It isn’t always what you miss, it’s what you show up for.
On her wedding day, following the ceremony and after everyone had taken their seats to eat, we hugged for the first time in six years. It was the first time we had even seen each other. And I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t.
I spent a lot of that night in tears. I tried to hide them so that she wouldn’t feel guilty in any way and would enjoy her day surrounded by nothing but pure happiness. It was difficult to see how her life evolved without me. I had become accustomed to my life not having her in it, but I didn’t think about how it would feel to be the outsider looking in on hers as well. It was a place that I had never wanted to be, and a friendship that I had never imagined I’d lose. I left that night in tears, sobbing on the sand as my boyfriend and I strolled the beach by the reception hall. It felt like a final farewell almost to who we once were. There was no denying it any longer, we had changed, and it was over.
Since the, we have kept in touch sporadically and we still genuinely care about each other. I feel confident in speaking for her in that regard. But, our words are often empty promises of reuniting, which is probably best for both of us. The girls we once were will probably be friends forever. And I am certain that I will be spending the rest of my life missing her.
If you receive an invitation to an old friend’s celebration and one of your main reasons for celebrating is because of who you were in the past, be ready to come face to face with your present. And bring lots of tissues.
Stephanie grew up in the Southernmost part of New Jersey. She works in customer service at a software company and is a pro at boardwalk arcade games.