When you grow up down the street from someone your own age they quickly become a fixture in your life. I met Jane when we were four years old and her family moved into the big pink house on the corner. Naturally I was ecstatic because that meant there was finally someone my own age to play with. We spent years together, going through elementary school together then separating for middle school, high school, and finally college. There were sleepovers when we were younger where we ordered pizza to her balcony and rigged up a pulley system to retrieve the pizza so we didn’t have to go to the door, thus avoiding parental scorn. There were the countless adventures into the great unknown, also known as the barranca, the little stream behind our houses that was the perfect location for tadpole catching, butterfly spotting, and games of make believe adventure. She was there at every birthday party I can remember having and we were best friends. However, as many childhood friends do we began to grow apart in high school. We went to different schools and had different friend groups so, naturally, we had less in common. We hung out less and less until I went to college. Being up at school put 400 miles between me and my old friends, 400 miles that would bring some of us closer, but would distance many more.
Then Jane met Joe, a charming Englishman who was teaching soccer in California, and she moved to England. At this point I had let the distance grow because I’m terrible at keeping up long distance relationships, just ask my sister and she’ll tell you that I’m the worst at text conversations. When they visited for Christmas I got to meet Joe and I could see why she moved, he’s perfect for her and has made her happier than I’ve seen her in a long time. So when I bought my plane ticket to Europe for this summer journey I thought I’d go visit them for a week. I arrived last Saturday and it’s been a really important time for us. Being a house guest and having a house guest for a week isn’t easy, especially with two people who aren’t as close as they once were. For a couple of days the fake smiles were kept up, but spending so much time in close quarters finally did it’s magic and we had to talk about everything. It was hard, but so important to hear. I hadn’t realized I’d hurt her so much by pulling back and I was so glad she finally told me. There were tears and some painful words, but it felt like a relief. No matter what the English seem to believe, you can’t just smile and pretend everything is okay.
So now everything is out in the open and we can finally rebuild a friendship. We are different, but that doesn’t mean we have to be distant. She finally told me how hard it was to relate to my life after I’d gone off to college and checked all the boxes that society tells you one needs to check. I finally told her how proud I was of her moving to England, of finally doing something for herself, of finally choosing her own happiness. We can talk like real friends again and I’m glad of it, because if things go in the direction they are moving now I’ll be back in England for a wedding anytime now.
*Names were changed for privacy purposes