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"She looks like a rat!", "Hey, EARS!", and "Check out Bucky-Beaver!" were only some of the remarks my elementary school classmates uttered (not so) behind the back of the new girl in class. We were nine years old around the time we met. A new girl moved to town, and wasn't as welcomed as she had hoped to be. Anyone with eyes could tell it bothered her, but she kept quiet, and continued to walk with her head down, pretending she didn't hear any of it. I felt bad for her. You see, I was the fat kid in school. I was reamed on a daily basis; I had heard it all. It was a pain recognizes pain sort of situation. So I decided to do what I wished someone would have done for me, and just walked next to her and said "hey."
You could tell she was leery, as she simply tucked her short brown hair behind her ear, said "hey" back, returned her gaze to the floor, and continued walking. I introduced myself while keeping pace with her and asked her what her name was. She replied, but the look on her face was different this time. Relief. She could breathe again. We continued walking and talking on our way back to class. We did this every time we saw each other in the hallway over the next few days. Next, it was sitting at the lunch table together, and playing at recess, and introducing her to people who weren't assholes in fourth grade. Soon the "new girl" phase was over and she was happier, had friends, and was seemingly much more comfortable in her new environment. This was around the time I suspected our quickly and easily formed friendship would be discontinued. You see, friends were not such an abundant commodity for me, as I was often the butt of a lot of fat jokes and teasing. She was different. She actually stuck around. We surprisingly had a lot in common, and got along better than anyone I had gone to school with up to that point. Kids I had known for four or five years didn't click with me as fast and as easily as she did. For whatever reason, we had a bond. The stars had aligned, and best friends were born.
We were attached at the hip. Always. Grade school, middle school, and freshman year. Our personalities were SO similar. We were full-fledged, finish each other's sentences, lived at each others houses, fell asleep on the phone with one another best friends. It really was, in most cases, her and I against the world. During our freshman year of high school, her parents had decided to move. They felt that she had fallen in with the wrong crowd and was getting into trouble too much, so they needed to get her away from everything that was surely the culprit of her erratic behavior. I was devastated. I mean, don't get me wrong, I had eventually made some friends, so it wasn't like I was still the lonely fat girl I was in fourth grade, and by her leaving, I was faced with dealing with high school all alone. I mean, it felt like it, but I would survive.
Initially, we kept in touch regularly, but over time, it got very much few and far between, until it was no contact at all. By sophomore year I had another best friend, and we rode out the rest of high school together. She was good to me. We got along, did a lot of the same stuff I did with my previous bestie, but we never really had that bond, ya know? Our personalities were polar opposites, but for whatever reason, we gravitated towards one another, and I will be forever grateful for her friendship.
After graduation, a lot of the remaining "friendships" I had were winding down. Mostly due in part to a horrible break up I had endured my senior year that turned me into a recluse. The friends that remained were sick of my woe-is-me attitude and silently kind of ghosted on me. I had just graduated high school, and once again found myself pretty much friendless, miserable, and alone.
As I sat by myself on the floor of my bedroom in my parent's house, friendless and sulking on a Friday night while everyone else was out attending graduation parties, I told myself enough is enough. I wasn't really sure what I was trying to prove to myself, but with a determined demeanor, I started frantically flipping through the pages of my phone book. I had no particular person I was looking for, but I desperately just wanted a name to jump out at me. I wanted someone to save me from myself.
After a few minuets of checking off all the people I couldn't call because they were all not talking to me in view of the fact that I couldn't handle a remedial high school breakup, I was about to throw in the towel. But then, a name stood out. I had forgotten all about her. I wasn't even sure if the number was still hers. My grade school best friend. It was kismet.
It was so weird. I sat there, afraid to call her. I was so nervous. We hadn't spoke in almost five years. What if she doesn't remember me? What if she's pissed at me for losing contact? What if she just doesn't give a fuck anymore? What if it's super awkward and we literally do not have a single word to say to each other? What if she's not the same? What if I'm not the same? I was in my head for far to long. It was kind of ridiculous, actually. I was acting like I was about to call a biological parent I had just discovered I had after finding out I was adopted. I decided to stop being farcical and just dial the goddamn number. After all, what's the worst that could happen? They moved, or changed their number, and I had to chalk it up as a failed attempt to reconnect with an old friend? I've concocted worse end game scenarios, so what the hell?
One ring. "Be cool." Two rings. "Shit, this was a bad idea." Three rings. "They moved and I am literally calling a stranger in the middle of the night." Half of a fourth ring. Her dad answered. "Shit, shit, shit." He said hello twice before I actually asked for her. He yelled for her, and she picked up and waited for him to hang up before saying "hello." I didn't know what to say, so my knee jerk reaction was to fuck with her. We had that type of relationship. We always messed with each other. It was like shit talking each other was how we low-key showed affection. "What's up, bitch!?" in my most convincing serious voice was all I could come up with, which she, without skipping a beat, met with, "Who the fuck is this?!" Her response was so serious and matter-of-fact, that I couldn't help but laugh. She was confused by my reaction, and because she didn't recognize my voice, repeated her question more venomously than originally stated. "Calm down, killer! It's me! Nice to see some things haven't changed!" I said, to which she retorted with laughter "You asshole, what the hell have you been up to?!" A four hour conversation ensued, and NOTHING had changed. It was like we had picked up exactly where we had left off. Like we had never been away from each other. Like we had never stopped being best friends. Needless to say, we made plans and met up the following day and immediately reinserted ourselves back into each other's lives.
Things were normal for us, with a few exceptions. Obviously we had both changed a bit, met some new people, developed some new relationships. Growing up, if you will. During our friendship hiatus, she had met someone and pretty much fell in love with him. They weren't together when we reconnected, but she spoke of him often. He didn't sound like the greatest guy, but, by all appearances, he was in her past. I filled her in on my similar event, and how the ending of the relationship was comparable to death. We commiserated together on how boys are dumb, and we are better off without them, and we intended on leaving them exactly where they belonged. In our past. Or so we thought.
I'll be damned if both of these guys from our past didn't pop right back into our lives. You see, she had moved out of her parents' house and back to the town we grew up in. The plan was that I was going to move in with her and we would be roomies and go back to our childhood shenanigans while paying bills and stuff. Well, the first of many bumps in the road came in the form of her telling me that HE was going to move in with her, and soon! To say it threw a wrench in things is putting it lightly, but it wasn't the end of the world. Don't get me wrong, I was hurt, but it wasn't a HUGE deal. After all, I had my ex back in my life, too! We weren't moving as fast as they were, due to how we ended things, but we were doing well. Maybe a little too well, because I ended up pregnant. I still lived at home, and so did he. We were still super young, too. I wasn't sure what to do. I knew what my parents wanted me to do, but I wasn't sure. I confided in my best friend, knowing what she would say, but I needed to hear her say it. She did. She said if it were her, she wouldn't go through with it, that I was too young. Basically everything I already knew, and everything my parents had already told me, but in a weird way, it made me feel better about my decision. He and I agreed that we needed to terminate the pregnancy, and start trying to figure out just how serious we were about each other before we ended up in this situation again. This scenario wasn't going to play out again, so it was time to have some adult conversations about our past and our future. In the midst of me trying to navigate through one of the most adult situations I had ever been in, I receive a phone call that rocks me to my core, and marks the beginning of change that I had never anticipated dealing with.
"I'm pregnant," she said. Wow. Talk about weird. We were best friends, both got back with our exes at the same time, and both ended up pregnant within weeks of one another. Based on our conversation just a few weeks prior, when I was in the same quickly sinking boat, I asked her when she was going in for the procedure? She was quiet for a minute, and then said she wasn't. What. In the actual. Fuck? Three weeks ago, I was too young to have a baby, and it was going to ruin my life, and if you were me you would terminate the pregnancy!? Now you, who are younger than me, is with child, and you are going to keep it!? I was angry. I was hurt. I felt betrayed. I asked her why she was going to keep it, after she talked me out of terminating mine. She didn't really have an answer; at least an answer that I wanted to hear. It took me some time, but I sucked it up and remained by the side of my newly pregnant best friend. For a little while, anyway.
In the midst of all of this, my ex and I decided we really wanted to make "us" work. The possibility of being parents, and then deciding to end that possibility by our own choice, really kind of did something to the two of us. We were bonded by that experience. We were so much closer, and realized we wanted to have a family one day. Together. Shortly after our shared epiphany, we decided to move in together. I had kind of been in and out of contact with my best friend, but reached out to her when we moved in down the street from her. She was about to pop, and was excited to be a mom. We talked periodically, but life just kind of got in the way while she geared up to deliver her daughter. A few months after she gave birth, I found out I was pregnant again. We were so stoked. I had seen her walking down the street with a stroller and I ran outside to tell her. She congratulated me, and I could tell by her tired eyes that she really was happy for me. We didn't get a chance to hang out or talk much after that. She was busy raising a baby and working full time, and I was having a difficult pregnancy, so I was home-bound and resting until it was time for me to deliver in May of 2004. Sooner rather than later, that callous bitch called life reared her ugly mug again, and for the second time, we had drifted out of one another's life yet again.
Fast forward to 2009-ish. My ex and I had gotten married, bought a house in town, and were currently raising the most awesome little five-year-old girl (not in that SPECIFIC order) that ever existed. Roughly about that same time is when the devil that is Facebook had started to gain momentum, and some co-workers talked me into getting an account. I caved, and sold my soul to Zuckerburg. It was literally high school on the internet. I hated it. I had a whopping ten friends, mostly co-workers, and some kids that I had classes with in high school. I was the fat, unpopular kid all over again. Fan-fucking-tastic. I was truthfully about to delete the account, because again, I'm a loser and can't even make friends with people I was supposedly already friends with! Then I got a friend request. IT WAS HER! No way! Six years had gone by, and son of a bitch, if we didn't find each other again! My last name obviously was different, so she messaged me and asked if I was who she thought I was, and we started talking yet again.
This time around, a lot more was different than the few things that had changed during our previous three year break. She had also bought a house (closed the same day my husband and I did, now tell me this girl and I are not connected somehow!?), had a second kid, and was still with Mr. Plan Ruiner, (one of the nicer names I have for him) but they weren't married. Just like before, we talked for hours, and made plans to meet up immediately! Again, it was like we were never apart! It was crazy! This girl and I, man, we were star-crossed. People always said it was like one of us should have been a guy and we were some kind of weird soulmates! She was the Kristina to my Meredith, the zesty sauce to my onion chips, she was my "person." This couldn't be denied! We were right back in each other's lives, joking about the same stupid shit, out on our same dim-witted adventures. The band was back together, man!
She ended up splitting from her kid's father and moved back to town; rented a place five minutes from me, right down the street from the house she grew up in when we were kids. Things were going really well. In 2016, however, the other shoe dropped. I just didn't know it yet. She dated around prior to that, but never really struck relationship gold. She ended up talking to a guy we used to be friends with WAY back in the day, thanks to sata—I mean Facebook. She asked me what I thought about the two of them maybe trying to start something. I was honest. I told her to shut it down. You see, this guy had ended up getting married to another girl she and I were friends with in high school and they had a kid together. Well, their relationship ended badly. I knew a little more about him and her, and his past than she did because she had been out of town for so long. She lost touch with all these people. I, unfortunately, did not, and was privy to all the drama that had unfolded over the past decade. I told her that I thought it would be a bad idea. Besides the fact that they didn't have anything in common, he came with a lot of baggage, not to mention a kid, and about half the town was all up in his business. I just thought it was a situation she didn't need to put herself in. That was the last conversation we had about the possibility of them becoming an item.
She had decided to move forward with the relationship anyway. She didn't tell me right away. I wasn't exactly thrilled when I found out, but what was I going to do? She was a grown ass woman, and my best friend. I still voiced that I thought it was a bad idea, but I supported her. She seemed happier than what she had been in previous relationships, and for that reason alone, I dropped it. I would from that point silently disapprove, until she indicated that he had hurt her in some way, then I was going to destroy him. I just wanted to see her happy. She deserved it. She had been in many failed relationships, and was treated badly by a lot of men. I wanted her to find the guy that would treat her they way she deserved to be treated. I wanted her to be married, too. It was time. It was something she had wanted since the birth of her daughter. They were together a lot, and I knew she had fallen for him. She was still happy, and you could see it on her face that she had thought about a future with him. To me and my husband, they seemed to be moving really fast. I mean, really fast. She gave up her rental and moved her and her kids in with him and his son in their three bedroom apartment. They had only been together since roughly the middle of the summer, and it was barely Thanksgiving. I told her to slow down a little bit, take some more time to get to know him. I was nervous she gave up her place before actually really having been in a relationship with him for that long. I loved her and her kids, but she was acting erratically! It was weird that she felt like everything had to move so quickly. I remember saying to her—in front of him, mind you, "...you need to slow down! you're going to be pregnant in six months, I'm calling it now!" This was October-ish. She got pregnant on Christmas day. She found out around January or February. Nailed it!
Things got different again while she was pregnant. This time, however, it wasn't anything that caused us to go our separate ways. I organized her baby shower, and was at the hospital after she gave birth. Prior to her maternity leave ending, she had asked me to be her childcare provider when she went back to work, and I agreed. All of the things a best friend is expected to do, I did. Everything was normal for two people who had been friends for roughly 25 years. That is, until I started watching her daughter. It was like from day one, I became her employee, and was no longer someone she had known for over half her life. It gradually got more and more awkward as the arrangement went on. We went from talking every day to maybe once or twice a week. Then we went to only talking for a few minutes in the morning during the week when she called me to tell me her fiancé (yeah, they are engaged now) was on his way out to drop off the baby. That was literally all the conversation consisted of, too. In addition to some other things that had taken place, the lack of communication had really gotten me to thinking that she really just doesn't think of me in the same way anymore, and I have become more of a necessary evil to her nowadays. She didn't have anyone else to watch her kid. To me, it began to feel like that was the only reason she talked to me anymore. It was getting to the point where my husband had said to me, "this arrangement isn't working anymore, and I want you to stop babysitting for her." Six or seven years ago, I would have fought him on it. I would have been terrified to lose the friendship. But now, I honestly didn't feel like there was even a friendship to lose anymore. After all this time, all the ups and downs, the undeniable connection, I just agreed with him.
I'm now a week into my two week's notice, if you will, and I'm fairly certain I know how this is going to end. A 25 year friendship will come to an end in about a week, and I can sit here with a straight face and say I don't think either of us will be emotionally impacted by it at all. I don't think there is going to be a reunion in another ten years where we magically find each other and jump right back into our same old habits. I think it will be quite the opposite, actually. I think we will run in the opposite direction as fast as we can. I think that, in a week, we are both going to breathe a sigh of relief and think to ourselves: I'm glad that is over.
I wrote this because writing, to me, is a form of therapy. I have thought about nothing but this situation for the better part of a year now, and I was surprised when my conscience and my heart sort of synced up for the first time ever in my life, and all they could come up with was "fuck it." I thought that if I really sat down and told our story from the beginning, that if I relived all of it, I would feel different about it; that I would accept that if things fall off again with us, I would just be hopeful for our next run in, and expect that time would again fix whatever we didn't see was broken and led us astray like in the past. It didn't do that. It instead has shown me that, connection aside, we also appear to have a pattern of coming and going, and with each "break," our relationship breaks a little bit more, too. Who knows? Maybe I'm overreacting? Maybe it's just me that feels this way? If that's the case, that thought concerns me even more. Why am I so okay with a 25 year relationship just ending? I think that, after so much, a person can change and subconsciously re-prioritize what is important in order to be able to make a seamless life change without a second thought. Like a built-in defense mechanism of sorts. What in my life has made me become so desensitized that, somewhere deep inside, my being just knows when shit is about to hit the fan and goes into auto pilot to start to slowly prepare me for something that should be emotional, so when the event happens I don't skip a beat? I don't feel it. I just move on like it's normal. Because it's not.
I don't want things to end badly. I don't want a fight. I still care for her, and all of her children, and I think because of that, somewhere deep down, I know I need to just walk away. Maybe in doing so, I think it will just let things end peacefully. Pretending that things haven't changed for me isn't fair to her if I'm the only one who feels this way. I think I need to break up with my best friend, even though, emotionally, I think I already have.