When I think of you, my friend, I think of droplets frozen in time, blowing in and out of my mind. Sometimes when I catch these droplets, I am overwhelmed with happiness, but other times the only thing that washes over me is the dullest regret. When I think of you, I think of running around as carefree seven-year olds who didn’t have worries or expectations clouding their judgement. I think of our trip to the park when the cherry blossoms were blooming, of the wet seats of the kayak, and of the ringing of the ice cream truck as it passed by. I think of the fish eye soup that your grandma made for you that I refused to try. I think of the days I spent outside with you, walking hand in hand through the hallways of time, but most of all, I think of how easy it was to lose you, and how I didn’t even feel it.
I met you in preschool, back when our innocence had not been tainted by loneliness and fear. I don’t remember meeting you — in my mind we were always just friends. In the spring breeze, we would spend weeks together playing on the plastic playgrounds and singing in mini concerts. I can still taste the colorful frosting on the Barbie cupcakes my parents bought for my birthday that first year, and how I saved the prettiest one for you. We sat outside near the playground with white flowers blooming on the trees. It was perfect, and for a moment, I thought things would never change.
Throughout the first few years of elementary school, I was hot-tempered, socially awkward, and without any friends by my side. In my mind, those moments at school are covered in a thick fog, or maybe I tucked them in a place where I can’t find them. I don’t quite remember what I spent my breaks doing, but I wasn’t sad those years because I knew that after school I could always go find you. We would play Legos and read books in the sun room of the afterschool where everything was okay. And whenever I felt lonely, I could look forward to Fridays when we’d spend the afternoon in a park under the shade of a giant tree connecting chains and chains of daffodils. I’ve never quite felt a feeling like that since — the feeling of pure innocence.
In third grade, our afterschool closed and my life changed drastically. Thrown into a different afterschool where everything was too real and surrounded by kids and teachers who were aggressive and harsh. It was a far cry from how warm and homey our old afterschool was, and just like that I changed too. I toughened up, learned how to barter for food when I was hungry, how to close up when people were being mean. But on the weekends I could become my old innocent self. We would spend the whole weekend together jumping from class to class, and when we weren’t in a boring old class we would go to your house and play Animal Jam or Poptropica, eating popsicles against the hot sun of the summertime and suddenly, everything was okay.
Fifth grade was when the seasons started to change; the fiery red and orange leaves fell from the trees, and our friendship on the cusp of falling. Our weekends were not weekends anymore as they were filled with classes and other activities. Being ten-year olds without phones or other ways to connect, I almost forgot you existed. But once in a while, we would go on a day trip together, like that time we laughed so hard on the rides of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk that I almost threw up, or when we watched Moana in the fanciest theatre I’ve ever been to. We rode back home singing Christmas songs even though it was October. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t seen each other for months or that we hadn’t talked for weeks. It just didn’t matter.
Going to a new school in sixth grade changed me more than I would like to admit. It was hard being plopped into a school filled with so many people I didn’t know. As winter after winter came, snow poured down, a gust of wind blocked my vision. You became an afterthought. It wasn’t until many years later that I found you on Instagram and realized that I didn’t even follow you when it hit me that it was over. Just like that, any evidence that you were part of my life was gone.
It’s funny because in books the main character always has a best friend that they grew up with. You would’ve been that person in my life if we were still friends, but reality isn’t so kind. People change — I’ve surely changed — and I’m no longer that naive little know-it-all who says what’s on her mind; that little girl is overshadowed by someone who’s gone through the highs and lows of life.
So just like that, people come and go, just like the leaves come and go throughout the seasons. Sometimes they leave with a knife to your heart, so painful that you take months to heal. Other times they drift away like summer; you don’t even realize there’s a change until you are suddenly freezing.
I forget sometimes that I was once a person with a best friend. Sometimes I even forget you, but a piece of my heart is frozen from the endless winters, and it isn’t until I have a dream with you in it so vivid that I forget you are even gone… when it shatters like glass.