I’m thinking of my friend. I see her every so often when I scroll through Instagram and the algorithms put her on the map again. It’s been decades since we’ve lived in the same city and shared secrets, and yet there is still something between us. I’m thinking of this friend. The one who saved me once. When I was at my lowest low. The one who reminded me that I would be okay. But also, the one who let me cry and didn’t tell me to stop. Not once.
Back then I would wish for time to speed up. For us to be twenty years on, the heartbreak of my early adulthood a thing of the past. Middle age sounded so much more stable and secure.
I’m thinking of her now because I see her family pictures. They are on holiday in France, on an empty beach, laughing and jumping over sand dunes, chasing and taunting the waves.
She’s across the world. With a life, and three boys. Six if you count the three she lost. There could have been more, I don’t know. And a partner she never married (at least that I’m aware of) because she never believed in it. He was the guy who looked like he was 16 when he was 26. A scrawny, scrappy kid with the little boy face. Now he’s in his forties and he almost looks grown up.
They seem mostly happy, at least that I can gather from what she chooses to share. Apart from the positive covid test that upended their holiday season. She posted a picture of the white plastic test, not unlike the way we used to post positive pregnancy tests, until it hurt too much to share the sad news that would inevitably follow for both of us.
But I’m thinking of her now because I see her pictures and her hair is short. Like she’s taken a razor to her head. And I have no idea why. Don’t get me wrong, she looks beautiful. But it’s the kind of cut that makes you wonder. Is it a cancer cut? A gender fluid cut? A I’ve-moved-to-the-countryside-and-don’t-give-a-fuck-anymore cut? I heard through the grapevine that one of her sons might have learning difficulties, so perhaps a year of homeschooling was all just too much and she lopped it off.
I don’t know any of these answers because we’ve lost connection.
I try every so often. I send her a message on WhatsApp.
“We should catch up,” I say.
“I’d love that,” she replies.
But neither of us set a date. The last time I texted I even added, We don’t have to catch up on all the years we missed, we could just start with where we’re at today.” But even that feels hard to know where to begin.
If someone asks me who my best friend is, she will still appear in my mind. But no one asks that question anymore. It seems our later years are for partners, and children, and soul-searching in solitude. Friends, yes, even good friends, yes. But best friends?
If you had asked me twenty years ago whether we would still be friends, I would have gently scoffed at you for even asking. Of course we will. But if you would have told either of us the tragedies and joys that would befall us in the decades ahead, it’s likely we’d have also laughed. But mostly out of a naive innocence that presumed neither of us would have been able to survive such devastating blows in one lifetime.
And yet, here we are.
I’m thinking of my friend and her short hair. Are you okay? I want to ask her. And I wonder if she knows that I would fly to her in a heartbeat if she still needed me. Of course, she doesn’t. But if she did. And I wonder if that means the connection is not lost.
I’m thinking of my friend and wondering if it’s like we are still on the phone (and in my head it’s the old school landline, and we’re twiddling the cord around our fingers while we each sit on the floor, our backs against the wall. Like if it were a movie, they’d split the screen and show us back-to-back. That’s how I’m picturing it). And I’m wondering if one of us said,
“Hold on, I’ll be right back.”
Only there might just be thirty years before either of us comes “right back.”
And maybe that’s okay. Maybe this is what happens. It’s not a lost connection, but a connection on hold. I just can’t hang up the receiver, and neither can she.
Meagan Schultz is a writer, podcaster, e-course creator, retreat facilitator, soon-to-be-hospice volunteer, and mother of three. When she’s not asleep by 7:30, she can be found writing at http://www.meaganschultz.com. Her work has been published on Brain, Child, Literary Mama, HerStories Project, Sunlight Press, WUWM NPR’s Lake Effect, and in several anthologies. She can be found at http://www.meaganschultz.com and @MeaganSchultzWrites on Instagram.