The summer we fell into best friendship

Gigglers, remember last December when we asked for your stories of best friendship for our Tale of Two Besties contest? Well, we’re super excited to announce the finalists and grand prize winner. We’ll be counting down our runner-up besties stories, and on February 18th will announce the winner—plus reveal the ‘A Tale of Two Besties‘ cover! Check out Aleksandra Hogendorf’s story below.

If we were a film, it would begin with the sun.

It would begin with sunlight through tree crowns, fragmented and leafy, and the bright, glowing spots of looking directly into it for too long. The trees would be blurry, would be speeding by, because we’d be driving down the highway in your car; and the light would be splintering through the trees in bright fissures of summer. The camera would pan out to the edges of road beside us, to the windowpane cranked low, to the tanned hands tapping out rhythms on the door and on the wheel, to the iced coffees sitting dewy in the cup holders, then up to our faces in wisps: freckles, hair against skin and against sky, lips a little chapped, but smiling, singing along to the radio. That’s how our film would begin: with eternal summer—slivers of us between slivers of sun.

Of course, there are so many other things it could be, so many other moments and years of our lives—more important ones, more symbolic ones, more significant and representative. But those are just big words that feel empty and heavy to hold. I think I like us most in the sun of that summer, in those moments that were both the beginning and the end to something that we could feel was important. Even back then, I think we knew that these light-soaked days of secrets and youth were special, that it wouldn’t be the same again, that it wouldn’t ever be this good.

I remember the heat fumes lingering over the road as I sat smearing sunblock into my skin, feet on the dashboard, singing off-key. I remember you slurping your coffee and rattling the ice cubes with one hand on the wheel. That summer we spread our towels in the shade of the lifeguard’s chair, drunk on the sun and the salty air. I slept while you swam, faster than last time, against the current. When you came back you would drip sea water over my back and report the temperature of the waves. We lounged on the worn cotton, faded from countless coastal trips, and made shapes and stories of the clouds as we tanned on our backs.

I remember this as the summer of many firsts. Getting drunk, getting high, hookups and heartbreaks. Most of the time it felt like we were one person. Inseparable, living out the definition of empathy—my pain was yours, your worries were mine. We sat on the stoop outside of your house one night when I had drank a little too much and the universe was beginning to look scary. You talked to me until breathing felt better, you pointed out the stars. I remember the silence of this suburban block, the solitude out on that stoop, your face a calming center as my thoughts tumbled through rollercoaster dips and dives.

I slept over nearly every weekend. Your parents were away, so we threw parties, stained the rug in your basement with beer, caught up with old friends and made new ones. You didn’t laugh at me when I started dancing to Cotton-Eyed Joe, but turned the volume up and joined in. The one time we had a keg party, you said “never again” as we cleaned up spills and plastic cups and I collected cigarette butts off your driveway and front lawn. I still can’t believe we were the type of people to throw a keg party.

That summer was sunny days and tanning and sand angels and salty skin. It was spiked lemonade in the backyard and twinkle lights tangled around us on the rooftop. It was blowing menthol curlicues down onto the treetops and spilling secrets and dreaming of road trips across the entire swell of the nation. It was nights, hot and laughing, driving around with the windows down. It was braided hair, melon slivers, tie-dyed shirts, dance parties in our underwear, and coconut coffee pit stops every time we got in the car. It was rooftop rambles, weekend antics, backyard barbecues, random road trips, and beach trips, beach trips, beach trips. It was holding hands as we ran into the waves. It was fearless.

In retrospect, it was all child’s play. We did things that make me cringe now. We thought we were fully-grown when we were only teetering on adulthood, barely dipping our toes in. It was exhilarating. It was standing at the brink of something grand, together, hands interlaced. All of the moments that came after, though bigger and more notable in the film of our friendship, somehow don’t shine as brightly.

I wonder where we will end up. We’ve been apart a lot lately, apart more than together. Airplanes and foreign shores, lives shared through text messages and scheduled calls. Adhering to time differences is not as difficult as adjusting to different realities. We’ve missed birthdays, breakups, breakdowns—milestones we wished we were there for. We missed those moments when we really needed each other, which hurts the most. But somewhere along the way, our friendship flourished into a bond that stretches limitless, that withstands time and space. Settling into a new routine thousands of miles away, I brew my morning coffee and think of you, think of our ritual caffeination, of conversations scented with coconut. It doesn’t matter as much as you’d think it would, the moments we’ve missed, the separate lives that we have lead. Reunions feel like being back in the polyester seats of your car, like no time has passed; like catching tans and like wisps of sun through tree crowns.

This essay was written by Aleksandra Hogendorf.

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