Slow down, you crazy child
Which part of this was a mistake?
You came to the house to show us your new iPhone. First generation, smooth edges, a big round button. “Hi, Camille,” you called up the stairs as you walked in the door. I heard you chatting with my brother and my parents downstairs. “Bye, Camille,” you called out when you left. I stayed in my room the whole time.
I can’t say my favorite thing about you, because I loved everything about you. You were born one day before me and from then on we were astrologically intertwined, finishing each other’s sentences since the day we had met six years before. We both loved Billy Joel and dad rock, but also Broadway and classical and the types of music that the cool teenagers would never admit to liking. We sang together in the school chorus. We were the top two students chosen for the Math League team. The two best grades in any class.
We only dated for a few months, deciding we were better as friends, but your dad started introducing me as his future daughter-in-law anyway. Our families were close. We spent every Friday night together, playing video games and watching Comedy Central. You were Catholic, which I didn’t mind, because you brought me a liturgical kind of peace, something sacred I could hardly name: I didn’t think of myself as something worth committing to, but I knew you were here to stay, that you would be faithful to what we had. We were too similar, too in love with our friendship not to end up together, one day, maybe. It was our silent agreement by then, that I would always love you a little bit, and you would never mention it.
Before long we started growing up. You taught me how to drink. I taught you how to sext. We still spent every Friday night together, sometimes at home, sometimes out. I knew it was you on the first buzz of my phone, knew your smell like my own shower gel, had the shapes of your thumbs memorized. What else could I have asked for in a best friend? I couldn’t wait to love you for the rest of my life.
But we were fighting that day, our first fight, the culmination of weeks of tension. The girl you liked was blonde and very Christian and kind of dumb, and I was a closeted math league kid with no God to my name. We were only a year from graduation and I dreaded losing you any earlier than I had to. But she drew you in and I couldn’t compete, and when we texted every night you talked about her, and it broke me in half.
The night before you came over, you had kissed her for the first time, and something inside me cracked. I drove away from the party too fast to be safe, screaming at you out my window, overdramatic, a little too upset.
I made it home safely, somehow, and we texted. “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” you wrote, as I berated you for your choice of a partner.
“Judge not?” I asked you. “Don’t talk to me about judgement. I’m bi and I haven’t told you because I thought it might ruin our friendship. Or ruin our chances together. Or ruin everything.”
I don’t remember what you said, but I hadn’t wanted to come out to you like that. I wanted it to be in person. I wanted it to be kinder. After all, you had been the most important person in my life until twenty minutes earlier.
So you came over the next day, iPhone in hand, and I didn’t come downstairs, and we never talked again.
The next year, our senior year, was awkward. You kept dating her and we kept not speaking. I waited for you to come back to me, waited for you to apologize, but you never did. And that’s when I began to agonize over the permanence of what I had done. I wrote you letters, talked to your parents, even came to your house once. Begged for you back. Eventually you told me to stop trying. You told me it wasn’t worth it. The foundation I’d believed in with my whole heart wasn’t as strong as I’d thought. You wouldn’t even hear me out.
You went with all our friends to the state school four hours away, but I moved all the way to Chicago because it was the farthest I could bear being away from home and still, blissfully, a thousand miles away from you. She cheated on you three weeks into college and you broke up over Skype. I wrote you a letter and sent it to your mom. You never responded.
It’s been 13 years and eight months since we stopped speaking, and I am still reminded of you in bits and pieces: when I listen to that song, when that joke comes to mind. Little things that tell me I didn’t make you up. Your mom came to my grandmother’s funeral a few years ago. I don’t dare let myself look you up on Instagram. You’re a father of two, now. A Republican. You moved to Texas and you probably own a gun.
Thank God I didn’t come downstairs that day, even though it ended us, even though it nearly ruined me. I don’t think we’d be such good friends today, after all.